The words “say” and “speak” are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. “Say” is to utter a short sentence, phrase, or word, while “speak” is to talk for a longer period of time. Saying something and speaking something has different implications. For example, when you say goodbye to someone, it’s a brief farewell; when you speak goodbye, you may spend more time saying goodbye to the person.
The difference between say and speak can be confusing for English learners because the two verbs have similar forms and both mean “to talk”. However, as this post will explain, there is a big distinction between the two verbs in terms of meaning and use.
What is Say?
Say is a word that is used to communicate something that someone else has said. It can be used to quote someone directly or to paraphrase what they have said. Saying is also a way of indicating that something is the case, or that someone believes something to be true. In this usage, Say can be followed by that or whether. For example, you might say to your friend “I heard that you got a new job.” In this sentence, Say functions as a verb meaning “to utter” or “to express.” Say can also be used as a noun meaning “an utterance” or “a statement.” For example, you might say “Your last say was really hurtful.” In this sentence, Say functions as a noun meaning “an expression” or “a remark.” Say can also be used as an interjection meaning “to express surprise.” For example, you might say “Say, that’s a really nice shirt!” In this sentence, Say functions as an interjection meaning “indeed” or “in fact.” Say can also be used as an adjective meaning “stated” or “expressed.”
What is Speak?
Speak is a word that means to say something out loud. It can also mean communicating in general, whether through writing or body language. Speak can also be used as a noun, meaning a particular language or dialect. For example, “He only speaks Spanish.” Speak can also be used as an intransitive verb, meaning that it doesn’t take an object. For example, “I need to speak with you.” In this case, speak is often followed by an adverb or preposition. Speak can also be used transitively, meaning that it takes an object. For example, “Please speak more slowly.” Speak is most commonly used as an intransitive verb.
Difference between Say and Speak
Say and Speak are both verbs that indicate communication. Say is defined as to utter aloud or pronounce; and, Speak is defined as to utter words or articulate sounds with conventional meaning in sentences. Say is used when quoting someone else’s words verbatim. For example, He said, “I am hungry.” Say is also used when relaying information without contextualizing it with emotion. For example, the doctor said that I have a virus. Speak is used when expressing one’s own thoughts or emotions.
For example, I want to speak with you about your recent behavior. Lastly, Say can be used interchangeably with Talk; however, Speak should only be used when referring to verbal communication. For example, Let’s say/talk about this later. Say and Speak are both verbs related to communication; however, Say is mainly used when quoting someone verbatim or relaying objective information while Speak is used to expressing one’s own thoughts or emotions.
The difference between say and speak is an important distinction to make. Saying something implies that you are stating a fact, while speaking involves more emotion and can be used in different ways depending on the context. When writing, it’s important to be aware of the connotations of each word so that your words have the desired effect.