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I figure 说 is generally used for quotes or languages,

我说「我是美国人。」
我说英语。

I also figure 说话 is used when talking with someone.

我明天跟他说话了。

Are these differences accurate? Are there any other differences one should know between the two?

5 Answers 5

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is the simple verb for "say, talk, speak, state":

  • 「我是美国人」- I said/stated "I am American".

  • 英语 - I speak English.

说话 means "speak to, talk to, converse with, or a conversation".

  • 我昨天跟他说话了 - I spoke to/conversed with him yesterday.

  • 我不想和他說話 - I don't want to talk to/converse with him.

  • 老師找他說話了 - The teacher is seeking him to have a conversation.

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说话 is an example of a separable verb (or a verb-object phrase).

The verb in 说话 is 说, and can be used with all sorts of objects, like 说汉语 or 说我的名字 (or even 我会说 with no object). Among the possible objects it can take is 话, thereby forming 说话. In 说话, the 话 is a noun and refers to what is said.

This means:

  1. 说话 cannot take another object (话 is already the object for 说), such as 说话英语 or 说话“我爱你”.

  2. We can separate the verb 说……话:

    • 我要几句。 (Here we add a quantity and measure word.)
    • 。 (Here we modify 话 to 脏话.)
    • 他还没。 (Here we modify the verb via complements.)

    And we can basically use them independently, like in 这句是谁的?

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It is impossible to talk without 话。Talk is 说话。

You may have noticed (especially from linguists) there are two kinds of 话:

You can talk sense: 考试期间不许说话。
You can talk nonsense: 你怎么老在胡言乱语啊?

If you don't want to say exactly what was said, or how it was said, use 说话。

此刻没人和我说话。
At the moment, no one is talking to me.

Otherwise, use 说。

我妈说话。
My Mum spoke.
Mum said what?
我妈说我不能去。
My Mum said I can't go. (哭哭)

他说话。
He spoke.
He said what?
他说会永远爱她。
He said I will love her for ever. (真的吗?)

Else use 说话说:

他说话。
He spoke.
How did he speak?
他说话说得太快了。
He spoke far too quickly.

他说话说"我会永远爱你“。
He said, "I will always love you."

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Q:I figure 说 is generally used for quotes or languages,

我说「我是美国人。」 我说英语。 I also figure 说话 is used when talking with someone.

我明天跟他说话了。 Are these differences accurate? Are there any other differences one should know between the two?

A:说seems to be a transitive verb here which must take an object。话is one of the possible objects of 说。

我说「我是美国人。」the quote is the object. 「我是美国人。」是我说的“话”。

我说英语。is somewhat different. Here it does not mean 说话。It means able to speak in English. 我会说英语。or even 我会英语。It’s differently expressed in English, namely, “I speak English” should be translated to 我会说英语. If in another context, say I was speaking in English but he was speaking Chinese, then you can say 我说英语,他说中文。 But still 英语or中文can be seen as objects of 说。

我明天跟他说话了。This is not a correct sentence. 了is for past or perfect tense. 我昨天跟他说话了。is alright. It means say, I have not spoken to him for a long time, but I spoke to him yesterday. 我明天会跟他说话。It means I have not spoken to him for a long time, but I will try to speak to him tomorrow. If you want to say “I’ll tell him (about it)tomorrow” it would be 我明天会跟他说(哪件事)(的)。

他没说话。this is OK

他终于开口说话了。this is OK.

大家都不要说话。this is OK.

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If only "说",the content of it is important. If you use "说话","话" is just a default noun after the verb, which means we don't care the content of "说".

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