Speak – idioms & phrasal verbs.

Do know your ‘speak out’ from your ‘speak up’ and your ‘speak volumes’? Here’s the Pronunciation Studio guide to a very versatile word:


1. “speak volumes”

Meaning: represent/display

”Those exam results speak volumes for the level of teaching here.”
“Your appearance speaks volumes for your level of attitude and commitment.”

2. “speak out of turn”

Meaning: to say something inappropriate.

“Jen’s worried she spoke out of turn when she asked dad to lend you that money.”
“I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I really feel this wedding is a mistake.”

3. “on speaking terms”

Meaning: to have a friendly rapport with – used to show that you have a verbal rapport with somebody, though it’s often used in the negative.

“Are you and Tessa on speaking terms now then?”
“Tessa’s not the problem, I’m not on speaking terms with her brother.”

4. “so to speak”

Meaning: indicates that an expression is not literal.

“It’s raining cats and dogs, so to speak.”
“He could charm the hind legs off a donkey, so to speak.”.

5. “speak the same language”

Meaning: to agree

“Everyone will need to speak the same language if this project is going to succeed.”
“I would recommend hiring Paul, we speak the same language.”

6. “speak your mind”

Meaning: to say what you believe

“Why don’t you just speak your mind? Enough waffling.”
“I can’t speak my mind, she’d throw me out.”

7. “speak for yourself/oneself”

Meaning: to represent your own opinion – often used as an imperative to distance the speaker from the group.

“I think we should go out for a curry tonight”
Speak for yourself, I hate curry, so does mum.”

“That was one of the most boring films ever seen”.
Speak for yourself, I liked it.”

8. “be spoken for”

Meaning: taken or claimed.

Are those cakes spoken for, I quite fancy one”.
“Unfortunately all the groom’s friends are spoken for, so this could be a dull wedding.”

9. “speak well/ill of”

Meaning: to complement or critisise.

“Well, the vicar always speaks well of your charity work”.
“You shouldn’t speak ill of the deceased, it’s not right.”

10. “speak out”

Meaning: to make public an issue or complaint.

“It’s time to speak out about this corruption”
“Where would we be if the environmentalists hadn’t spoken out about the power station?”

11. “speak up”

Meaning: to raise the volume of your voice

“Sorry, I can’t quite hear, would you mind speaking up.”
“You’ll need to speak up if you want your voice to stand out lad.”

12. “speak up for”

Meaning: defend

“I’m all alone, nobody will speak up for me.”
“You need to learn to speak up for yourself, otherwise people will take advantage of you.”

View all Pronunciation Studio articles on English words and speech here from ‘sorry’ to ‘ok’ and ‘hello’.