Walk somebody through something: to slowly and carefully explain something to someone or show someone how to do something

Talk somebody through something: to explain an idea, a plan, etc. to someone so that they understand it

The definitions look very similar so I wonder if there's any subtle difference between them.

  • 1
    A minor usage note: we don't usually use the abbreviations sb and sth in written English. Dictionaries use them, but that's about the only place you'll see them.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 23:25
  • Thanks for fixing that, I was just hoping to save a couple of bytes on the server :D Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 7:17

2 Answers 2


They are very close in meaning and in many situations would mean the same thing. If I had to describe them differently though, I would say that "walk through" could imply a "hands on" approach, or that they want you to show them something, rather than just talk about it.

An example to show the possible difference:

Could you talk me through how to get a job?


Could you walk me through how to get a job?

Both mean the same thing more or less. However, the second example might be a request for someone to actually show them how to do it, rather than just explain it. Maybe it means that they want someone to sit down with them at a computer, show them some websites, etc, in addition to talking about it.

It's pretty ambiguous, and in most cases they can be used interchangeably

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    I think a "walk-through" implies a step-by-step set of instructions. A "talk-through" is similar but suggests verbal communication while the person is actually doing the task.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 23:50

You're right. They basically mean the same thing. But talk somebody through something implies that there is going to be some sort of verbal communication—the person doing the talking is going to use their voice to explain things to you. It also implies that you're possibly going to talk back to the person doing the talking to give them your feedback.

On the other hand, walk somebody through something usually conveys the idea that the explanation process will take place mostly in nonverbal mode, but that's not necessarily always the case. In a spoken exchange, they can be used pretty much interchangeably. I can envision the expression walk somebody through something being used in something like a textbook where it is impossible to have an oral conversation with the reader. A couple of examples are in order here.

Two guys on a walkie-talkie:

— How do exactly I turn this thing off? There's so many buttons. I don't know which one to press.
— There are a couple of steps to it. It's not that difficult. Let me talk you through the process. Just listen and do exactly what I say.

In a textbook:

The next chapter is going to walk you step by step through the process of setting up your own DHCP server on your local network.

PS: I have given this a second thought and now I don't think there is too much of a difference between them. I can equally see talk somebody through something being used in printed matter as well as in conversation. So, all that I have said above are really just semantic technicalities and nothing else.

  • 3
    A "walk-through" can be either verbal or nonverbal, I think. It's just an idiom.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 23:45

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