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Say, speak, talk, tell (inglês/português)

by Christa Maas

What´s the difference between say, speak, talk and tell? How do we use these verbs?     Qual é a diferença entre say, speak, talk and tell? Como usamos estes verbos?

Não é possível traduzir estes verbos ao pé da letra, mas basicamente são usados assim:
1. Para transmitir informação, no sentido de dizer, falar, contar, afirmar, relatar, avisar usamos os verbos: say, tell, state e report
2. Para expressar habilidade linguística usamos o verbo: speak
3.  Para conversar, falar, dialogar usamos os verbos : speak, talk e chat




a) Reportar falas e indicar frases textuais: “It´s raining outside.” he said.
   b) Questionar sobre palavras  ou frases (em outra língua, ou algo que foi dito): “How do you say “carro” in English?” “What did you say?”
   c) Exemplificar algo: “We could offer... say...R$ 5000 for that car”
     d) Indicar a leitura de um livro, um guia, uma placa, uma lei... “It says here that dogs aren´t allowed in the park”.


             a) to  - “He said something to her.”
     b)  about- “What are they saying about me?”
     c)   that -“ He said that he would be home early”
     d)  Sem preposição - “Did you say something?


a) Quando orientamos o nosso interlocutor: “Please, speak more slowly. You are speaking too fast!”
b) Quando expressamos nossas opiniões: “He spoke to you as a friend, not as your boss”.
c)   Quando falamos de habilidades linguísticas: “He speaks three languages fluently”.
d) Speak é mais usado quando a fala é unilateral. “I´ll speak to your teacher and resolve the problem.”


    a)      To -“He speaks to many people every day.”
    b)      Of- “He spoke of you many times”
    c)      About - “Let´s not speak about this again.”
    d)     Sem  – He speaks English.



    a)      Para indicar ordens, avisos: “My mother told me not to talk to strangers.” “I told you so!” ( eu lhe avisei)
    b)      No sentido de  “contar”: “He told me about you”. “She told me a story.” “Can I tell you a secret?”
    c)      Para distinguir entre coisas: Can you tell the difference between this car and that one?” “You can´t tell she isn´t Brazilian.”
    d)     To tell the truth (dizer a verdade), to tell the future (prever o future)
    e)      To tell time (dizer as horas)


    a)      About: “Why wasn´t I told about this?”
    b)      To tell someone something ( not: tell to someone) “I need to tell somebody about this urgently.”


     a)  Quando falamos de planos: They are talking about leaving New York next spring.
      b) No sentido do ato da fala:  He couldn´t talk until he was three years old.


    a)    To: “I need to talk to you right now”
    b)     About: “We can´t talk about the budget now.”

Expressions and Collocations with say, tell, speak and talk

a)      Say
Do you think it will be very hot today? I really can´t say. (Não sei dizer)
That is to say, I might rain or it might not. (Quer dizer que pode chover ou não)
I hate to say good-bye  (Detesto dizer adeus)
Really? You don´t say! (E verdade? Não diga!”)
I´ll say a prayer ( or: I´ll pray)  for you. (Vou rezar por você)
That goes without saying ( é obvio que...)

b)      Tell:
A: Is he honest? B:  You never can tell! (A: Ele é honesto? B: Nunca se sabe)
A: He is very intelligent! B: You´re telling me! (isto não é novidade para mim)

c)      Speak:
I want to speak my mind. (quero desabafar, dizer o que penso)
It speaks for itself ( falar por si mesmo)
He hates speaking in public (falar em publico)
So to speak (por assim dizer)

d)      Talk:
We talked about business all afternoon (Falamos de negócio )
You need to talk some sense into him (Falar para que ele fique sensato)
You are talking nonsense (Você está falando bobagem)
He talking about me behind my back (Ele está falando de mim pelas costas)

Expressões em português – traduzidos para o inglês:

No telefone : Quem fala- Who is calling?

Falar sério – be serious

Por falar nisso- by the way

1.      Exercise 1: The children __________ “good-bye” to their friend.
2.      Welson ___________ he had to leave early today.
3.      Does Hideo ___________ Japanese?
4.      Hello, I`d like to __________ to Mr. Guiaste, please.
5.      Daniele´s boss ____________ to her about her work.
6.      A lot of employees are ____________ about leaving the company.
7.      The board of directors didn´t _____________ us about their plans.
8.      Bobby doesn´t like to ___________ stories in English.
9.      Ricardo ____________to me about the office party. He also________ that I wasn´t invited.
10.  Our teacher ____________ four languages. Last week she __________to us about how she learnt German.
11.  Otávio _____________ at the conference next week.
12.  Welson always ______________ funny jokes in class.
13.  I don´t know. He didn´t ___________ me anything.
14.  Did Luis ___________ anything to you about our trip?

Exercise 2:

Correct the mistakes in the text. (It´s really terrible! J)

Last night I told to my husband “Let´s have dinner at a restaurant.” He spoke to me that it was a good idea. My friend said me that “Pedro`s diner” was a good restaurant, but when we tried it, I knew he had spoken to me a lie. Then my son talked me a secret:
“go to a place where there are a lot of people “ he spoke. He said me never to listen to my friend again. When my friend asked me I told that the food was good.

Exercise 3:

How would you say this in English?

a. Todos nós falamos Português .
b. Ontem ele nos contou uma estória em inglês.
c. José e eu sempre conversamos sobre o progresso dos cursos na empresa.
d. Ela disse que vai tirar duas semanas de férias em julho.
e. A minha professora sempre diz que ler é um ótimo hábito.                                                                            

1 said 2 said 3 speak 4 talk or speak 5. spoke 6. talking about 7. tell 8. tell 9.talked, told 10.speaks, told
11.will speak 12. tells 13.say 14.say

correct the mistakes: spoke to my husband, said that, told me, told me a lie, told me a secret, he said, he told me never, I said

How to say it in English: 
We all speak Portuguese
Yesterday he told us a story in English
José and I always talk about the progress of the in-company course ( the course in the company)
She said ( that) she will take a two-week vacation in July
My teacher always says (that) reading is a great habit.


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