Speaking “with you” or “to you”: A Grammar Review (2024)

Have you ever wondered why some grammatically-correct expressions still seem to be troublesome and unfitting sometimes?

By and large, people appear to be confused as to whether the phrase “speaking with you” or “speaking to you” is the right way of prompting a conversation.

So, this post discusses the subtleties between these two tricky English phrases to make communication less ambiguous.

Let’s get down to business right off the bat.

Which is correct, speaking “with you” or “to you”?

Speaking “with you” and speaking “to you” are both grammatically correct and even interchangeable. However, using “with” instead of “to” suggests more warmth and, therefore, more formal. The use of the preposition “to” meanwhile suggests prompting a one-way rather than a two-way conversation.

Speaking “with you” or “to you”: A grammar review

While good grammar leads to a clearer communication of ideas, bad grammar could be a major source of misunderstandings.

Hypothetically speaking, language is a whimsical entity that drives human interactions in any place on a daily basis.

So, whether you’re just talking to yourself in the shower or dealing with work-related situations, language always serves as a vehicle in making thoughts more visible.

Many aspects of language can be utterly hard to digest, such as verb tenses, polysemous words, spelling, pronunciation, and so on.

But at times, even the most commonly-used expressions can be as intriguing and thought-provoking as the last Korean drama movie that you watched.

These expressions include the infamously shilly-shally “speaking with you” and “speaking to you,” which will hopefully be made clear as we go along.

For starters, “speaking with you” and “speaking to you” are expressions used as prompts to start a conversation with another person.

These two expressions can be used both in written and spoken contexts and are largely interchangeable for the most part.

They are interchangeable in the sense that they are both predominantly non-offensive and unlikely going to cause misinterpretation, minus the trivial gap between the prepositions “with” and “to.”

With that being said, these two expressions can also be conveniently used in both formal and casual conversational contexts.

However, they may sometimes be regarded as formulaic, thereby making them commonly found in English language-learning textbooks.

But as they say, there is always more to the world than meets the eye; hence, there should still be more to learn about even the most ordinary English expressions at hand.

To get into the nitty-gritty of “speaking with you” and “speaking to you,” let us go over their grammatical aspects one at a time.

The grammar behind “speaking with you”

“Speaking with you” is only a preposition different from “speaking to you”; this suggests that the disparity between both expressions is largely negligible.

“Speaking with you” is widely used in the predicate part of a sentence as a verb phrase functioning as an object of the preposition.

This is true, for example, in the truncated expression “looking forward to speaking with you” wherein the main verb “looking forward to” is a phrasal verb type.

“Speaking with you” is also otherwise called a gerund phrase in the example above, which means that it is used to replace nouns just like infinitives.

Moreover, as sentence truncation is technically considered a characteristic of the informal register, we can formalize the last expression by turning it into “I am looking forward to speaking with you” instead.

To still further formalize the last given expression, we have to use the simple present tense, thereby making it “I look forward to speaking with you” in the process.

The same function and usage of “speaking with you” can be observed in the expressions “It’s a pleasure speaking with you” and “It’s been interesting speaking with you.”

Here are a few more example sentences making use of “speaking with you” to make the explanation clearer:

Example:

It’s been great speaking with you.

I am interested in speaking with you.

I appreciate speaking with you about the incident.


In other times, “speaking with you” may also just be a mere part of the main verb used in the sentence that is inflected in the progressive or continuous form.

This is realized when “speaking with you” comes directly after the subject in the sentence, similar to the example below:

Example:

I have been speaking with you for about two hours now.


Since “speaking with you” can be used as a noun, it may also be used in the subject part of a sentence.

Example:

Speaking with you has always been amazing.


In terms of language use, “speaking with you” generates fewer results than “speaking to you” in the collection of texts online.

Comparatively speaking, the preposition “with” also implies more politeness than “to” because it contains a more inviting or warm connotation.

This means that using “speaking with you” instead of “speaking to you” may meanwhile imply that the conversation is something formal and serious rather than casual and trivial.

In other words, using “speaking with you” is indicative that the conversation prompt is more of a request rather than a command.

The warm and inviting connotation of “speaking with you” also makes it suggestive of a dialogue instead of a monologue.

To put it more straightforwardly, “speaking with you” is just like saying “let us talk with each other” or “let us have a two-way conversation.”

The grammar behind “speaking to you”

Meanwhile, “speaking to you” is something more like “I talk, you listen” if we are going to compare it with “speaking with you.”

But then again, the context in which the language operates is also a very important factor to consider in making this assertion.

In contrast with “speaking with you,” this expression is more like an order and, therefore, it bears a less inviting and less serious connotation.

That said, “speaking to you” also leans more towards suggesting a one-way conversation or a monologue to the addressee.

As it is relatively less polite than “speaking with you,” the expression may also imply having a less serious conversation and, hence, less threatening.

To put these things in context, “speaking with you” might as well be regarded as synonymous with “looking forward to talking to you” in relatively casual business conversations.

All in all, these assumptions may also likely explain why “speaking to you” generates more results on the online corpora than “speaking with you.”

Now, in terms of grammar, “speaking to you” is also used as a gerund phrase to replace nouns in sentences.

Thus, “speaking to you” may also be used as a subject in a sentence:

Example:

Speaking to you directly is the only way to solve the problem.


Just like “speaking with you,” “speaking to you” is also mainly used as a verb phrase functioning as an object of the preposition in sentences.

It is often preceded by the preposition “for,” such as in the example sentences below:

Example:

I apologize for speaking to you harshly earlier.

He could lose his parents’ trust simply for speaking to you.


However, unlike “speaking with you,” “speaking to you” is more heavily used as the main verb in the progressive form in sentences.

Examples:

I am speaking to you as a friend. So, please, consider my advice.

He shouldn’t be speaking to you about those private matters.


I am speaking to you, my dear followers, to thank you for your undying support.


Thus, this simply suggests that while “speaking to you” is often compared with “speaking with you” in terms of formality level, the gap is not necessarily that significant.

Synonyms for “speaking with you” and “speaking to you”

Now that we know how “speaking with you” and “speaking to you” can be both the same and different from each other, let us also find out their synonyms to be more flexible.

Discussing with you

The dialogue-like implication of the expression “speaking with you” can also be expressed by using “discussing with you.”

“Discussions” are generally expected to be participated by more than one person, and it also bears a formal connotation.

Hence, “discussing with you” is a great expression to use in conversations that entail formal language use.

When you “discuss matters with” a person, it is also expected that you are open to comments and opinions coming from that person.

Example:

These kinds of matters are always worth discussing with you.

Reaching out to you

Meanwhile, the monologue-like undertone of “speaking to you” can also be expressed by using “reaching out to you.”

“Reaching out to you” is often used as an introductory expression in emails to inform the recipient of the purpose of the message.

As emails generally entail formal language use, the more complete expression to use is “I am reaching out to you” rather than “reaching out to you” alone.

When you “reach out to” another person, it means that you are asking him or her to pay attention to what you are trying to say or write about.

Example:

I am reaching out to you to ask for an update on your team’s progress report.

Frequently Asked Questions on “Speaking ‘With you’ or ‘To you’”

What does “speak to you then” mean?

“Speak to you then” is similar to saying “talk to you later.” It is an expression used when one expects to have a conversation with another person in the future.

What is the difference between “speak with” and “talk with”?

The verb “to speak” has a relatively more formal connotation than “to talk,” and “with” is also used more formally than “to.” Thus, “speaking with someone” is considered more formal than “talking with someone.” “Talk” is also better paired with the preposition “to.”

Which one is correct, “did you speak” or “did you spoke” to him?

“Did you speak to him” is the correct expression. “Did you spoke” is grammatically incorrect because it does not follow the question-formation rules of the simple past tense.

Conclusion

Speaking (or more precisely “writing”) to you as a language enthusiast, I hope that by this point you would have realized that there is ineed more to a language than meets the eye.

That said, it is safe to say that there is always something more to discover even way beyond the most formulaic expressions used in everyday conversations.

That’s all for now, folks. See you in our next post!

Speaking “with you” or “to you”: A Grammar Review (1)

Marcel Iseli

Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.

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