Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Hi, I'm Vanessa from SpeakEnglishWithVanessa.com. Say, tell, speak, talk, how can I use them correctly? Well, today we're going to talk about it. What did you say? I didn't tell you that. You're speaking too quietly. Okay, let's talk about it. Can you accurately use say, tell, speak, and talk? Well, today I hope that by the end of this lesson you'll feel more comfortable about how to accurately use them in daily conversation. The first pair that we're going to talk about is say, and tell. Let's start with say. Say is often used for reported speech. This means that you can imagine you are a reporter, you are a journalist, and you're telling someone what happened, what someone else said. Breaking news, Vanessa said to study English every day. Breaking News, Vanessa said to study English every day. Here, you saw reporter Dan reporting to you using reported speech, and he used the word said. Vanessa said to study every day. By the way, that's great advice, study every day. But previously, I have said something, I said study every day, and he's reporting that. So, you might use this in other situations as well. But you might say to your mom, at the end of a long school day, "My teacher said a lot about the Revolutionary War, but I didn't understand any of it." So, you're reporting to your mom what your teacher said. "My teacher said a lot about the Revolutionary War, but I was too tired and I was sleeping." So, you're reporting this speech. But what if you want to add a person? Who is Vanessa talking to? Who is the teacher talking to? Well, you're going to add the word to. Vanessa said to her students, study every day. The teacher said to me to go to the office. The teacher said to someone, Vanessa said to someone. It's not as often used to use this construction. But if you want to use said plus a person, you need to add to. Vanessa said to study every day, or Vanessa said to her students to study every day. The next one is the word tell, or in the past tense, it is told. This is an irregular verb. I tell you, I told you. You see here even in these quick examples that you're talking to someone directly. So, you're going to almost always have a person or maybe an organization, the person you're talking to directly after the word tell. We use tell when we're speaking directly to someone. So, let's take a look at a quick example. Breaking News, Vanessa told her students to study English every day. Breaking news, Vanessa told her students to study English every day. You saw reporter Dan say, "Vanessa told her students to study every day." Who did Vanessa talk to? Her students? So, here we have that person, the one who I'm directing my conversation at, we have it directly after this word tell. Vanessa told her students to study every day. She told them that daily practice is important. Her students told her, "Thanks that really works." Do you see an all of these examples, we have that person directly after tell. Vanessa told her students. She told them. They told her. Beautiful. Now, remember a moment ago we said that you can say, Vanessa said to her students, but it's not used as much. So, I recommend if you want to talk about the person who you are talking to, use the word tell. The teacher told the students to study. Vanessa told me that I'm doing a great job, and you are. Let's go on to the next pair. The next two words are speak and talk. I have some good news. The general feeling of the word speak or in the past tense, it is spoke. This is also an irregular verb. This has the feeling of something formal, maybe distant, and it almost feels like you're above looking down. Maybe you're the boss or you're the parents looking down. When you speak, it needs to be in this formal, maybe even as an authority. Let's take a look at a couple of examples. You might say, "I spoke to my sister about her puppy." Or, "I talked to my sister about her puppy." When you say, "I spoke to my sister about her puppy, it feels like you had an organized meeting, you had a PowerPoint presentation and you were presenting to her. It's very formal, it's distant, you're almost looking down as you're speaking with her. I spoke to my sister. And really, when you're talking about a puppy, that's not the situation. So, you can use talk, because it's much more natural in just daily conversation. I talked to my sister about her puppy, great. You might say, "The manager spoke with the client, or the manager talked with the client." Because there is a manager who is an authority and he's talking with the client who is not the authority, it's perfectly fine to say the manager spoke with the client. But it does have a feeling of formality of some distance. So, if you want to convey that you had a friendly conversation, you're building your relationship, you're more on equal terms, you might want to say, "The manager talked with the client." So, it just depends what you're feeling and what you want to convey. You could say, "We spoke about our vacation, or we talked about our vacation." What happens when you say, "We spoke about our vacation?" You can imagine maybe a big speech and you're speaking about your vacation to all of the college and university graduates and they're listening to you. Maybe they're falling asleep because they're not interested in your vacation. But here, it's something formal, it's distant, you're looking down at them. So, if you want to talk about a familiar situation, talk about a familiar situation, you might say, "We talked about our vacation." If you're just going to a coffee shop and having a conversation with your friend, this is exactly what you're going to use. We talked about our vacation. You just saw me use several expressions; talk to, talk with, talk about, speak to, speak with, speak about, great. We've got a lot of different options and remember, speak is going to be a little more formal or a distant and talk is going to be more relational, more conversational. Before we go on to the final part of this lesson, I want to let you know that there are some important situations that you might want to be careful about with the words speak and talk. The first situation is if you say, "We need to speak, or we need to talk." Both of these sentences feel a little bit scary. If your husband says to you, "Hey, we need to talk. Are you busy right now? If Dan said that to me, I would be a little bit scared. What's wrong? What did I do? Why is he upset? Oh, it's quite scary. So, if you use, we need to talk, or even we need to speak, make sure that you want the other person to feel a little bit uncomfortable because they definitely will. We need to speak. Why do we need to speak? What's the problem? If your boss said that to you, "Excuse me, we need to speak. Please come to my office." Oh, that's really bad news, and you might be fired. So, make sure that if you use, we need to speak or we need to talk, either of these expressions, make sure that they are for a very serious situations, and usually when there's some kind of problem. The second situation that you need to be careful about is when you're talking about languages. We usually use speak to talk about the languages that you know how to speak. I speak English, I speak French, I don't speak Japanese, I don't speak Portuguese, I don't speak Finnish. I speak English. If you want to use talk, you need to say, "We talked in English in the meeting. We talked in Japanese in the meeting, talked in French in the meeting. Make sure that you use that sentence structure, talked in plus the language. You can't say, "We talked English, we talked Spanish." No, that's not going to sound natural at all. And that's the opposite of what you want. Make sure that you say, "I speak English and I speak 10 other languages." Wow, that's amazing. So, make sure that you use this correctly. Now, I have a question for you. In the comments below this video, I want you to answer the question, what's something that your mom used to say when you were younger? What's something that your mom used to say when you were younger? Let me give you two quick examples. You might say, "She always said to clean up my room. She always said to clean up my room." Said to clean up my room, this is reporting what your mom used to say. Or you could say, "She always told me to clean up my room." You're adding the person directly after tell. She always told me to clean up my room. All right, now it's your turn in the comments, answer that question, what's something that your mom used to say when you were younger? I hope that you can use these accurately, and I hope this video helped. Thanks so much and I'll see again next Friday for a new lesson here on my YouTube channel bye. The next step is to download my free eBook, Five Steps to Becoming A Confident English Speaker. You'll learn what you need to do to speak confidently and fluently. Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more free lessons. Thanks so much. Bye.