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Is there any difference between talk something and talk about something? (For example, 'talk politics' and 'talk about politics'.)

Note, I'm talking about instances when the object is some topic, not what is being said (so, 'talk nonsense' and similar is not a matter of this question)

  • No, I don't think so. 'Talk' here means 'have a conversation about'. – Kate Bunting Nov 21 '19 at 11:56
  • Let's talk turkey has a completely different meaning from let's talk about turkey. That particular idiom aside, let's talk children (for instance) isn't idiomatic without punctuation (it only makes sense if you add a comma, making it an address to children), but let's talk about children is fine. – Jason Bassford Nov 24 '19 at 6:50
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In most contexts, there is no difference. "Lets talk [x]" is an informal, colloquial abbreviation for "let's talk about [x]".

There is something of a difference though - the shorter "lets talk [x]" can imply things that the other does not. For example, "let's talk salary", following a discussion about potential employment, is really like saying "tell me what you are offering me as a salary". Talking "about" something is really just naming the subject, and is not always so pointed.

I would also note that I believe it is more common in American English than British English, although it is used.

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  • The usage He's always talking shop sounds essentially "adverbial" to me, even if strictly speaking, shop is a noun. But with colloquial She'll talk sense into him we have what looks more like a conventional transitive verb plus object (comparable to She'll beat the living daylights outta him). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Nov 21 '19 at 13:36
  • @FumbleFingers "talking shop" is an idiom of its own, so I wouldn't cite that as an example. Likewise "talking sense" is different, because "sense" isn't a subject. Nobody says "talk about shop" or "talk about sense". I perceive this question is really about situations where they are interchangeable. – Astralbee Nov 21 '19 at 13:45
  • I think syntactically, talk politics / business / shop are all essentially adverbial usages where we can discard the preposition about for the first two (idiomatically, we can't do this with the third, but semantically that would seem to make sense). I'm not sure how I'd analyse Let's talk turkey though - I suspect that one's more based on talking like turkeys ("Gobble, gobble", implying intense / focused conversation). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Nov 21 '19 at 14:04
  • @FumbleFingers I'm not sure - "let's talk business" is a proposal to discuss business between you and the party you are addressing. "Let's talk about business" is far more general - you could mean a general discussion about the business of one party or the other, or perhaps neither. – Astralbee Nov 21 '19 at 15:40
  • Well, I have upvoted your answer, but I'm not convinced that distinction between talking business and talking about business really stands up. Except insofar as the prepositionless form is inherently somewhat colloquial (having slightly marked syntax), making it less likely to occur in the more formal / literal context of discussions about trade & commerce in general. Hence it's really the probable context that invariably steers us towards the discuss the details of our contractual / financial arrangements sense. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Nov 21 '19 at 16:33

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