lezioni di vocabolario

Speak, talk, tell or say? Quando usarli?

A volte capita di fare confusione con i verbi to speak, to talk, to say, to tell. Vediamo ora quali sono le differenze più importanti tra di loro!

A volte capita di fare confusione con i verbi to speak, to talk, to say, to tell. Vediamo ora quali sono le differenze più importanti tra di loro!


I speak English, I talk to my friends, he told me a secret, do you know what I’m saying?
If you’re having difficulty with using these words, don’t worry. We are going to show you their common use and teach you a few popular expressions with each of them.

Say Vs Tell


Say means to speak words. The main meaning of say is to “use your voice to express something in words.” Say is also used for exact quotes.

He said he was going to be late. – Ha detto che sarebbe arrivato in ritardo.

What did he say? – Cos’ha detto?

When he said he was leaving, we all got really sad. – Quando ha detto che stava partendo siamo diventati tutti tristi.

When we use “say”, generally the recipient of the action is not as important as what we have to say.

Say is also used to express opinions:

I wouldn’t say that he’s a great guitarist [=I don’t think he’s a great guitarist]. – Non direi che è un grande chitarrista.

They say that you should drink eight glasses of water a day. Dicono che dovresti bere otto bicchieri di acqua al giorno.

If we use an object with ‘say’, we always have to use the preposition “to,” for example:

He said to Steve that he was going to be late. – Ha detto a Steve che avrebbe fatto tardi.

I said to him that I couldn’t go. – Gli ho detto che non potevo andare.


In comparison with ‘say’ we need to use an object when we use ‘tell’. The main meaning of tell is to “say something to someone.” Tell is used to instruct or inform. Do not use it for quotes.

I told you about the party. – Ti avevo detto della festa.

Have you told him the news? – Gli hai detto la notizia?

Please tell us your name and occupation. – Per favore ci dica il suo nome e la sua professione!

He was told to go home. – Gli dissero di andare a casa.

When we use ‘to’ with tell we give someone an order or make a strong request.

I told you to buy me a drink. – Ti ho detto di comprarmi un drink!

Didn’t I tell you to mind your own business? – Non ti avevo detto di farti i fatti tuoi

Speak and talk are synonyms and in most cases interchangeable. The main difference between the two would be that “speak” is used in more formal situations and “talk” is for more informal conversations.


Are you talking to me? – Stai parlando con me?

I was talking to him about the sightseeing event. – Gli stavo parlando dell’evento turistico.

The movie was really good but people kept talking during the best parts. – Il film era molto bello ma le persone continuavano a parlare durante le parti migliori.

This guy talks forever. – Questo ragazzo non la smette più di parlare.

I need to talk to you about last night. – Ho bisogno di parlarti dell’altra notte.

Did he talk to you about this trip? – Ti ha parlato di questo viaggio?


Speak is used when we are referring to languages or when conversations are more of a monologue.

How many languages do you speak? – Quante lingue parli?

Can you speak English fluently? – Sai parlare inglese fluentemente?

He was speaking to his employees about the new services. – Stava parlando ai suoi dipendenti dei nuovi servizi.

As you can see, “speak” sounds more formal than talk. If someone said that they wanted to speak to me I would consider it more important than if they had said they wanted to talk to me.

Expressions with Say, Tell, Talk, Speak


Anything you say, I won’t argue with you. – Qualsiasi cosa dirai non discuterò con te.

Easy for you to say. – Facile dirlo per te.

Needless to say. – Non serve dirlo / Inutile dire….

She says hi. – Ti saluta (Lett: Lei ha detto ciao).


Something tells me that… –  Qualcosa mi dice che….

To tell you the truth. – A dire la verità.

You never can tell. – Non si può mai sapere.


Money talks. – I soldi contano.

Look who’s talking. – Senti chi parla!

Talk shop. – Parlare di lavoro.

He talked me into it. – Mi ha convinto.


Actions speak louder than words. – I fatti contano più delle parole.

Speak your mind. – Di’ ciò che pensi!

So to speak. – Per così dire.

Can you speak up? – Puoi parlare più forte?


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