There are certain German words that have only one single translation in your mother tongue but in German language several words can be used.

Today we will try to explain the difference between: SPRECHEN / SAGEN / REDEN.



The meanings of these words are quite similar to “speak” “say” and “talk.”

1. The verb sagen just means “to say” or “to tell” in a short, single action:

Er hat gesagt, dass ich auch kommen soll:
He said that I should come too / He told us to come too.

This verb can also be used with an indirect object (I told him / I said that to her):

Sag mir jetzt die Wahrheit!: Tell me the truth now!

2. In terms of the verb sprechen, it implies that the act of speaking is somewhat longer. However, there doesn’t actually have to be any interaction between people :

• Er hat gestern über seine Situation gesprochen: He talked about his situation yesterday.

It implies that this person spoke about it for a while, However, it doesn’t mean that the other people listened to him. In other words, no interaction was needed.

3. So, what about the differences between sprechen and reden? These two verbs can almost be considered synonyms. However, if you really want to know what makes them different, sprechen is used more to talk about the ability to speak or to use languages. For example:

Sie kann sprechen: She can speak.
Er spricht Spanisch / Er kann Spanisch (sprechen): He speaks Spanish/ He can speak Spanish.

In the other cases, ‘sprechen’ and ‘reden’ can be used interchangeably:

Wir haben viel gesprochen / Wir haben viel geredet:
We talked a lot.

Germans will say the two phrases above interchangeably without making any distinction between the two. However, if you want to make a more precise comparison between these two verbs, ‘geredet’ usually implies an exchange of information/opinions. For example:

• Wir haben viel gesprochen = We spoke a lot (not necessarily with each other) .

• Wir haben viel geredet = We talked a lot (with each other, there was for sure an exchange of information, opinions, etc.)

Although sprechen and reden are synonyms, the verb sprechen is a “nicer, more formal” word, and it emphasizes a more correct and sensible way of speaking. On the other hand, reden can imply ‘chatting’. Therefore, this verb is never used in formal letters!