Differentiating “talking to” from “talking with”

I’m neither a linguist nor a semantician, and I make lots of mistakes with the English language. However, I firmly believe that the words and expressions we use should not only approximate what we mean, but should also be as precise as possible.

Thus, I find myself intrigued (or rather, confused) when people use the phrase “talking/speaking to people” instead of “talking/speaking with people.”

Most individuals would not pay much attention to this subtle difference, but technically, these two expressions are not interchangeable.

The first phrase implies a unidirectional conversation, akin to a speech, where one person talks to another (or a group) and hopes that the recipient of the communication hears or listens to it.

The second phrase typically refers to a discussion or conversation that is bidirectional.

When taken to its logical extreme, the choice between “talking to” and “talking with” reveals subtle power dynamics between speakers and listeners.

If your intention is to have a genuine conversation and foster true dialogue, then it’s probably best to use “speaking with” instead of “speaking to” in all your references to these kinds of interactions.

Photo Credit
Photographer: Frederick Dobler
Title: lost wisdom
you can almost see the knowledge that you’ve forgotten