Difference between TALK TO and TALK WITH
A lot of students ask me about the difference between talk to and talk with.
The answer is that there’s essentially NO difference when two people are having a conversation, and both of them are speaking. You can say “Sue is talking to John” or “Sue is talking with John” – they’re the same!
Some people claim that talk to should be used when it’s only one person speaking, and talk with should be used when it’s more of a two-sided discussion.
However, in practice, many native speakers use both interchangeably. Here are some examples.
- Can I talk to you for a minute?
= Can I talk with you for a minute?
- Brian’s over there, talking to Matt.
= Brian’s over there, talking with Matt.
- I talked to my boss and she said I could take a day off.
= I talked with my boss and she said I could take a day off.
Here are some other combinations of talk + preposition:
talk about + (topic/person)
This is the most common way to express speaking about a topic. The topic can be serious or not so serious.
- We talked about our favorite movies.
- Everyone’s talking about the World Cup.
- They always talk about me behind my back.
(behind my back = when I’m not present/listening)
talk over / talk through + (problem/issue)
We use talk over and talk through to describe a more detailed, in-depth discussion, often when there’s a decision to be made, or a problem or conflict that needs to be resolved. Talk through can also be used for explanation of a process step by step.
- I’m not about to buy a car on a whim. I need to talk it over with my wife first.
(on a whim = on impulse, spontaneously)
- My business partner and I talked things over and came up with a plan.
(came up with = created/invented)
- If you’re not happy in the relationship, you should talk it through with your boyfriend.
(= discuss a problem in depth)
- The IT guy talked us through the installation of the new computer program.
(= explain a process)
talk someone into / talk someone out of
+ doing something
To talk someone into doing something means to convince that person to do it. He/she didn’t want to do it, but you managed to change their mind.
- I was hesitant to try ice skating, but Helen talked me into going.
- Let’s see if we can talk Pete into giving us free food.
- I can’t believe the salesman talked you into buying a $7,000 sound system.
The opposite is to talk someone out of doing something – meaning to convince the person NOT to do it:
- I was going to buy an iPhone, but Fred talked me out of it by telling me all the ways that Samsung phones are better.
- He wants to get a giant tattoo, and his wife is trying to talk him out of it.
- I’m glad my friend talked me out of quitting school when I was about to give up.