What is the difference in using of "speak of" and "speak about"? I сame across such usage in a book I'm reading:

However, if we speak of the whole scene between Othello and Iago, we certainly cannot call it our type of art.

My question is why the author used "speak of", not "speak about"?

  • In order to discuss this, a link to the full text might be helpful. I speculate that the text does not deal with the actual contents of the scene but rather with the scene itself. It might be very possible that usage could be interchangable as well. – Wottensprels Nov 21 '17 at 17:55
  • well, unfortunately, I cannot give a link, because I read an electronic version of Stanislavski's "An Actor Prepares". This text was taken from Chapter Two "When Acting Is An Art", part 1. – Andrei Nov 21 '17 at 19:19
  • Maybe you can't provide a link, but you could at least provide more of the surrounding text – or maybe a screen shot. – J.R. Nov 21 '17 at 21:19

The short answer is: of is a very flexible word.

I will speak on love.
I will speak about love.
I will speak of love.

These three expressions mean essentially the same thing.

You already know about speak about, but:

  • To speak on X can mean "speak on the topic of X" – although, when it comes to using on, it might be more common to hear, "I will give a talk on X."
  • To speak of X can also mean "speak about X," although it has a slightly more smooth and literary feel to it.

If anything, speak of seems to be more prevalent than speak about, at least in written texts – if you want to believe the ngram:

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