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"Say", "Talk", "Speak", "Discuss" and "Explain" for German Speakers.

This post focuses on difficulties that German speakers have with correctly using communicational verbs such as "say", "talk", "speak", "discuss" and "explain";


A frequent mistake is;


In this example the mistake is using the preposition about when it isn't needed - so the correct sentence is "We discussed this in the team meeting".


The preposition about is used with the verb talk so we could have said "We talked about this in the team meeting".


The biggest issues that German speakers would have with these communicational verbs is correctly using any associated preposition with the verb, and less frequently with identifying the correct collocation for the verb, i.e. "eine Geschichte erzählen" is actually "to tell a story" not "explain a story".

Let's look the correct forms and uses of the main communication verbs that cause problems, and then complete two simple exercises choosing the correct verbs and correct prepositions in sentences.


__________

The Forms and Uses


  • talk about something with/to someone. (mit jemandem über etwas reden)

We always speak about a topic, but beware of the order of the direct and indirect objects = the preposition about is always in front of the direct object.

  • speak about something with/to someone. (mit jemandem über etwas sprechen)

We always speak about a topic, but beware of the order of the direct and indirect objects = the preposition about is always in front of the direct object. Speak and Talk are basically the same, with the exception that we only Speak an language.

  • discuss something with someone. (besprechen)

When we discus something we are exchanging information about the topic.

  • explain something to someone. (erzählen)

Explain means to make an idea or situation clear to someone by describing it in more detail or revealing relevant facts.

  • say something to someone: (sagen)

Say is used to mean to pronounce words or sounds, to express a thought, opinion, or suggestion, or to state a fact or instruction: i.e. "Can you say you name to the group please".

  • tell someone something. (erzählen)

This communicates a thought, information, command or message to the listener.

Remember: tell is often followed by the indirect object.


Excercise: Complete the following sentences with the most appropriate communicational verb. In some cases, more than one is possible. Watch out for the correct form of the verb as well (Past form, present, gerund etc).


Choosing the correct verb:

  1. Could you __________ me where the office is located?

  2. Could you __________ to me how this works?

  3. Let's __________ about your plans for the weekend.

  4. Let's __________ your plans for the weekend.

  5. I need to __________ to someone about a complaint that I have.

  6. Could I __________ with Mr Smith please?

  7. Could I __________ to Mr Smith please?

  8. He __________ he wouldn't make it on time and we should start without him.

  9. I wanted to __________ you something, but I've completely forgotten what it was.

  10. He quickly __________ how the printer works to me.

  11. Unfortunately, I need to __________ staff redundancies with the rest of the team.

  12. Could you just quickly __________ where you come from again?


Choosing the correct preposition: with, to, about, no preposition.

  1. He has already talked _______ the delays to delivery times _______ the client.

  2. He speaks _______ over five different languages.

  3. I'm not sure who I spoke _______ ?

  4. Can we speak _______ the proposal _______ the rest of the team?

  5. In the meeting we discussed _______ the latest sales figures.

  6. Can you explain _______ me how to log into the computer.

  7. He said something _______ me about leaving the office early.

  8. He told _______ me that he would leave the office early.

  9. He only speaks _______ French, so couldn't follow the conversation in English.

  10. I explained it _______ him yesterday.

  11. I think that they discussed _______ that _______ us in the last team meeting, but I wasn't really listening.


Answers - Correct verb:

  1. Could you tell me where the office is located?

  2. Could you explain to me how this works?

  3. Let's talk about your plans for the weekend.

  4. Let's discuss your plans for the weekend.

  5. I need to speak to someone about a complaint that I have.

  6. Could I speak with Mr Smith please?

  7. Could I talk to Mr Smith please?

  8. He said he wouldn't make it on time and we should start without him.

  9. I wanted to tell you something, but I've completely forgotten what it was.

  10. He quickly explained how the printer works to me.

  11. Unfortunately, I need to discuss staff redundancies with the rest of the team.

  12. Could you just quickly say where you come from again?


Answers - Correct Prepositions:

  1. He has already talked about the delays to delivery times with the client.

  2. He speaks _______ over five different languages.

  3. I'm not sure who I spoke to ?

  4. Can we speak about the proposal with the rest of the team?

  5. In the meeting we discussed _______ the latest sales figures.

  6. Can you explain to me how to log into the computer.

  7. He said something to me about leaving the office early.

  8. He told _______ me that he would leave the office early.

  9. He only speaks _______ French, so couldn't follow the conversation in English.

  10. I explained it to him yesterday.

  11. I think that they discussed _______ that with us in the last team meeting, but I wasn't really listening.

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