Collocations with Say, Speak, Talk and Tell

Here you will learn popular collocations with say, speak, talk and tell. 

Learn English natural collocations and speak like a native.

Speak better English with Harry - Episode 305

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Collocations with say, speak, talk and tell

English collocations with say, speak, talk and tell. Study English advanced level. English lessons on Zoom and Skype at #learnenglish #englishlessons #EnglishTeacher #vocabulary

Hi there, this is Harry and welcome back to my English learning podcast Speak Better English with Harry. Here I try to help you to get a better understanding of the English language.

You will be able to enjoy your conversations, improve your business English, or help yourself to get through those stages of job interviews. We look at grammar, English idioms, expressions and phrasal verbs.

Intermediate to Advanced English Marathon

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

INSANITY: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Today I thought we would look at some English collocations. These are collocations with say, speak, talk and tell. These are all very similar words, and some students get a little bit confused with them.

Remember, we always say something TO somebody.

We can tell somebody something.

✔️ I tell them a story.

I say them a story.

✔️ He told them a bit of news. 

I said them a bit of news.

✔️ I need to speak/talk to a friend. 

Let’s start at the beginning:

I wouldn’t say no 

We use this when somebody wants to say yes. It’s one of these situations where you use a double negative.

Normally, we would say not to use double negatives, but here it is one of those exceptions.


  • Would you like to join me for a walk?
  • I wouldn’t say no.


  • Would you like a slice of cake?
  • I wouldn’t say no.

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it goes without saying

We really shouldn’t need to say something because somebody should understand it, but we will say it anyway.


We need to leave a little bit earlier than we might normally do, and of course, it goes without saying that we should wear our masks at all times.

We’re using this expression to emphasise some point that we want to make, and we really don’t believe that we have to say something because everybody should understand. 

to speak very highly of someone/something

To give someone or something praise. We use this expression when we hold someone in high regard; we believe they are really top class, or we’ve got a lot of confidence in them.


The boss is always speaking very highly of our new colleague. They worked together in the past, and she thinks that the sun shines out of him.

The government ministers spoke very highly of the quality of the service they received when they visited the country. 

We can also say:

I can’t speak highly enough of him

Meaning no matter what I say, it’s not going to be enough; I should be able to say more. I think he’s really really really good, and even when I say that, I’m sure I could say more if I could find the words to express it. 

Collocations with say, speak, talk and tell

English collocations with say, speak, talk and tell. Study English advanced level. English lessons on Zoom and Skype at #learnenglish #englishlessons #EnglishTeacher #vocabulary

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to speak your mind

To say exactly what you are thinking.


We would encourage all participants to speak their minds.

It’s important for everybody to speak their mind.

When you speak your mind, you still have to be respectful of other people and that they may not necessarily agree with you. 

generally speaking

This is a way of telling people what you normally do or quite often do, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you always do it.


Generally speaking, I spend my weekends at home with the family. 

Generally speaking, we like to go away for the summer holidays. Get out of the city and go to a quiet place, if we can find it. This year is an exception; we’re going to have a staycation. 

Collocations with say, speak, talk and tell

to talk business

When we talk business, that’s literally what it means. We’re not talking about the family, we’re not talking about football, we’re not talking about our holidays, we’re talking business. 


That’s enough of that; let’s talk business. Let’s get down to it and talk about what we’re really here to talk about. 

to talk sense/nonsense

These are opposites, of course. 

Everything that someone says makes sense; everything is practical.


Sam is a great guy; very honest, very down to Earth. He really talks sense. 

I don’t know what people see in him. I don’t know why they voted for him. Most of the time, he talks complete nonsense.

Collocations with say, speak, talk and tell

to tell somebody a secret

To give someone some intimate information.


Jane couldn’t wait to tell her the secret about his past.

to tell the difference between

To separate, to distinguish.


Nobody was able to tell the difference between him and his twin brother.

I can’t tell the difference between these two photographs; they look identical.

Any time that we are looking to tell the difference between two or more things, we’re looking for little things that will differentiate one from the other.

Collocations with say, speak, talk and tell

to tell the truth

We use this expression when we want somebody to be honest, or we want to be honest with somebody.


  • What are your comments on that marketing paper?
  • Well, to tell the truth, I didn’t get a chance to study it in detail. I only read the summary.

To tell the truth, I didn’t actually see the game last night. One of the kids was sick. 

Tell me the truth, where did you hide your end-of-year report?

Here are collocations with say, speak, talk and tell. Let me give them to you one more time:

  • I wouldn’t say no
  • it goes without saying
  • speak very highly of someone 
  • speak your mind 
  • generally speaking 
  • talk business 
  • talk sense/nonsense 
  • tell somebody a secret 
  • tell the difference 
  • tell the truth 

If you want to contact me, you can get me on Always happy to hear from you. Please contact me for one-to-one English lessons on Zoom or Skype. If you want to study for an English proficiency test, or if you want to prepare for a job interview in English, you know where you can contact me.

Thanks for listening. Join me again soon.

More information

For more information on English grammar rules, English collocations and English idioms, check out the links below:

10 Ways to finish an email in English

18 Colour idioms in English

Don’t forget that you can always study English advanced level at Learning English with the BBC.

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