Now you’re talking! Phrases with the verb ‘talk’

Listen to the author reading this blog post:

three people sitting outside in a city drinking coffee and having an enthusiastic conversation
Oscar Wong / Moment / Getty Images

by Liz Walter

My last two posts (Verbs to use instead of ‘say’ and Using animal noises to show human emotions) have been about verbs that describe the way people speak. In this post and the next one, I’ll be looking at some useful phrases that actually contain the verbs talk, speak, and say.

I’ll start with phrases we use to describe someone who typically talks a lot – as you will see, there is a lot of regional variation here. In UK English, we say that someone can talk the hind leg(s) off a donkey, while in Australian English, they can talk the legs off an iron pot. In US English, someone who talks a blue streak says a lot very fast:

I couldn’t get away from Jake – he really can talk the hind leg off a donkey!

He can talk a blue streak about classic cars.

If you say that someone is all talk (and no action), you mean that they talk about doing something but they never actually do it. Similarly, if someone talks the talk, they sound very confident about something, but people may wonder if they will really walk the walk (do what they say they will do):

He’s got several schemes for reducing crime, but his critics say he’s all talk.

She talked the talk during the election campaign, but so far she’s not walking the walk.

In US English, when people talk turkey, they discuss something very honestly and directly, while if they talk smack, they insult one another, often either as a joke or in order to intimidate a sporting opponent:

If we want to make any progress, it’s time to talk turkey.

The two men were talking smack before the game.

If you feel that someone’s criticism is hypocritical because they have the same fault, you could respond by saying You can talk!, Look who’s talking!, or You’re a fine one to talk! In US English, the variant You should talk! is also used:

“Her house is so dirty.” “You can talk! When was the last time you cleaned this floor?”

If we have been talking about someone and they suddenly appear, we might say Talk/Speak of the devil! If people talk shop, they talk about their work, even when they are not working:

Jamie’s got a new job. Oh, speak of the devil, here he is!

I was hoping for a nice relaxing day out, but Marianne wanted to talk shop.

I’ll finish with a positive phrase. If someone makes a good offer or suggestion, especially if they have offered or suggested something less attractive before, you can show your enthusiasm by saying Now you’re talking!:

10% more money and my own office? Now you’re talking!

I hope you found these phrases useful. Look out for my next post, on phrases containing the verbs ‘speak’ and ‘say’.

9 thoughts on “Now you’re talking! Phrases with the verb ‘talk’

  1. Isabella Bastianello (Isabella B.)

    Dearest Mrs. Liz Walter and Mrs. Kate Woodford,
    your posts are even more engaging since you start adding mp3 files. Do you think you could add mp3 files to old posts too? That would be amazing!!! Thank you so much.
    Kind regards,
    Isabella B.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Thanks, Isabella – we’re glad you enjoy the audio. We don’t have plans at the moment to record old posts but keep following for future posts!

    2. Jazmin

      I sincerely appreciate this podcasts. Personally, since I read and listen to them it is much easier to understand more and more texts, which, for me, it’s an enormous and satisfying achievement. They aren’t helpful, they are amazing and I guess I’m not the only who thinks so.

  2. Tuyen Tu

    So great! I love the phrase “Talk of the devil”. We have the exact same expression in my native tongue and i’d had a hard time expressing this idea in English up until today. Thanks so much, Liz.

  3. Olga

    Thanks a lot for a good choice of idioms and explanations to them. It was also great to listen to the audio version.

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