Say, Speak, Talk, Tell, Discuss

1. Use speak with languages.

Present tense



Other forms



I speak English fluently.


I can speak a little Malay.


Ahmed speaks Arabic.


We should speak English in class.

Mei Ling speaks Chinese.


Henry spoke Greek as a child.


Jose and Maria speak Spanish.

Do you speak Swahili?


Mr. Klaus speaks German.


They don't speak Portuguese.


2. Use say with quotes.

Direct quotes



Indirect quotes



Mrs. Fowler says "Hello."


They say that it is difficult.


I say "Let's try it."



She says that she doesn't care.

Mother says "No."



He says that he will come later.









This is most common with past tense.





He said "Give me my money back."

Gary said that he loved her.


She said "No!"



Mary said that she loved him too.

3. Use tell with indirect objects.

Please tell Bobby a story.


Jenny told her mother a lie.


They tell me (that) you're from India.

4. Use tell with to (verb) after indirect objects.

Tell her to stop it.



He tells me to buy stocks.


Greg told them to go ahead and eat.

She will tell them to come back.

5. Use talk with to (someone).*

I'll talk to her right away.


I talked to her last night.


Please talk to Bob about the car.

I should talk to my dad about that.

He talks to Milly every day.


She doesn't talk to me anymore.

6. Talk with is also possible; it implies more of a discussion.*

Talk to your son about his driving.

Implies that your son must listen to you.

Talk with your friend about her drinking.

Implies a two-way conversation.

I talked with Bob about his future.

Implies a lengthy discussion.


7. Use discuss with topics.

We will discuss the economy in class tomorrow.


I discussed the issue with my boss and co-workers.


Please discuss emergency preparations with your parents.

Note: Do NOT say "discuss about" something.

We discussed our relationship.



We discussed about our relationship.



*Speak is also possible with to and with, but it sounds a little more formal.

I spoke to my colleague about the new plan.


We spoke with the doctor about grandmother's health.

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