Do you speak a language or speak in a language when asking if someone has been practising it?

For example, which of these is better:

A: Have you spoken English recently?
B: Have you spoken in English recently?

  • 2
    I would ask, "Have you practiced speaking English recently?" That puts the emphasis on speaking. I might also ask, "Have you practiced speaking in English recently?" That puts the emphasis on English as opposed to another language. Either is correct but one has a different emphasis from the other. – Edward Barnard Oct 4 '19 at 15:41
  • 1
    The obvious one here is: Have you spoken English recently. versus: He spoke in English to the class, for example. Your "in" one just would not be used. – Lambie Oct 4 '19 at 16:57

To speak a language can refer to specific acts of speaking, or to one's ability, or customary behaviour.

To speak in a language is used only for specific acts of speaking.


Have you spoken English recently?

Have you spoken in English recently?

There is not much difference syntacticaly but the use of the preposition in makes some difference in meaning. I think in a monolingual country like England, you can not ask Have you spoken in English?

In a Multilingual country one may ask Have you spoken in English recently?

When there is no choice, we speak a language.When there is choice we may speak in a language.

Everybody expected that The Indian Prime Minister would speak at the UNO conference In English but he spoke in Hindi.

I think there is a slight difference between the two.

We speak a language, means speaks naturally probably as our mother tongue or with native like fluency.

If we speak in a language, we may not have that naturalness or native like fluency.

He spoke English very authoritatively

but not

He spoke in English very authoritatively. ✗

I tried speaking in English but I found it difficult.

A nonnative speaker starts speaking in English and starts speaking it after he/she has mastered it.

Here are two links which make the difference clear


https://www.englishforums.com/English/SpeakEnglishSpeakEnglish/zdxxw/post.htm .

  • @Mari-Lou A.It is a long time since you cursed me.I am joking.Thank you for the edit.What about its correctness. – successive suspension Oct 5 '19 at 13:11
  • Not my downvote, actually I'm surprised that you received one. The only (small) defect I can find is the expression "not/felicity of expression" which you use to describe the meaning of "speaking a language". I'm not sure what you mean by them. The rest is perfectly good, but needed emphasis and some formatting. – Mari-Lou A Oct 5 '19 at 13:40
  • But, and this is why I didn't upvote it, there's no mention of the OP's example "Have you spoken English recently?" I get the "He spoke English authoritatively" mirrors the OP's example, but the tense is different and the OP is asking about practising one's English, so your example is good but a little removed from the OP's request. – Mari-Lou A Oct 5 '19 at 13:43
  • One last thing, I didn't curse you. I never curse anyone, to curse someone means to wish ill of them, to desire their suffering and pain. I have never said anything of the kind. – Mari-Lou A Oct 5 '19 at 13:47
  • @Mari-LouA.I was just joking.I know you are not that kind of woman.I have great respect for you.You have kept your word by placing a bounty on my question. You have been guiding me a lot since I became a member on this site – successive suspension Oct 5 '19 at 14:02

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