Sunday, September 9, 2007

"Talk to" or "Talk with"

For ESL students, prepositions are "the final frontier." What I mean is that they are the most difficult thing for English language learners to master. It takes forever to get them all correct.

Not only are there a ton of prepositions, but there can also be subtle nuances that a non-native English speaker may not pick up unless he or she is living in an English-speaking country for a long while.

For example, the prepositions "to" and "with" can both follow the verb "talk." Both are correct. However, there may be some subtle differences depending on the speakers and the relationship they have. For example, if the boss of a company says, "I need to talk to you," I might be a little more worried than if he or she says, "I need to talk with you."

"To," when using the verb "talk" is more of a one-way thing. One person is doing most of the talking and is in (at least) slightly more control than the person being talked to. "With" has more of a give-and-take meaning. We are both going to participate in the conversation as equals (or at least it makes it seem that we are equals).

Probably the better preposition to teach ESL students with "talk" is "with." It is more neutral and, perhaps, more equal-sounding than using the preposition "to" with this verb. Using "with" will work better more times than using "to." The odds are in favor of "with."


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