I want to know the exact usage for the word "conversation", meaning does it have any relationship with time and how long does it take. For example:

  • Someone is walking on the street and he met his closest friend, they stopped and started talking for 5-10 minutes. Is this a conversation or chat?

  • Someone joined a meeting to discuss issues related business they spent three hours of discussion (I think this is a conversation!)

  • Conversations, chats and discussions are overlapping ideas. Chats tend to be more informal and discussions tend to involve issues. Beyond that, they are whatever you want to call them. Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 14:19

2 Answers 2


Every chat is a conversation but not every conversation is a chat. Chats are typically short. But not always. The main semantic feature of a chat is informality. Generally, an unscheduled conversation between two people. A secondary feature can be shortness and off-the-cuffness.

That said, AmE tends to go with conversation and BrE tends to go with chat.(Unlike the question recently posed here about have/have got). But the word chat is also used in AmE. Also, in AmE, talk is used instead of chat. "I ran into my neighbor in the street, and we had a talk about that." versus: "I ran into my neighbour in the road, and we had a chat about that".

These comments do not apply to the use of word chat on the internet but apply to what goes on in the real world.

Meetings typically (business and that type of meeting) involve a discussion among participants but typically do involve conversations. Conversations are typically between two people, though one can say, for example, a three-way conversation. When you attend a meeting, there can be a number of participants, and what is discussed (when not voting etc.) can be called a discussion. Each person presents her/his views or responds to others' views or opinions.

Typically, meetings do not involve "conversations" except in the now current usage of the word among journalists and talking heads who call everything a "conversation" and a "narrative". So, I can imagine a journalist referring to say, a meeting at the White House among 10 people, and when reporting on it, calling it a ""conversation". But technically, discussions at meetings are not called conversations.

Conversations and chats can be long or short. ((We had a long/short conversation about x, We had a long/short chat about x). Also, conversations and chats can also be discussions. They become discussions, one might say, if they involve a serious topic that is gone into at length by the two people having them.


We can have very brief conversations and very long chats. Or brief chats and long conversations. Length is not the decisive factor.

Chats are informal.

Conversation is neither formal nor informal, but neutral.

Discussions are formal.

What sets discussions apart from conversations is that discussions focus on an issue whereas the topic of conversation can meander.

Sometimes chat is used as a synonym for conversation and sometimes as a synonym for discussion. When used as a synonym for the latter, it is a form of understatement, and some degree of irony is involved.

Bill and I had a nice long chat, and he now understands that he won't have exclusive claims on the administrative assistant's time.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .