1. Is there a difference between 'speak fluently' and 'speak smoothly' in meaning?

  2. Is it correct to use 'smoothly' to describe 'speak English' such as 'He speaks English smoothly' and 'He speaks smoothly in English"?

  3. Can 'really" go with 'smoothly' like 'speak really smoothly'?

  • 2
    There's been something of a usage shift over the past century - today we normally apply the adjectival form to the relevant language (He speaks fluent English), rather than applying the adverb to the action (He speaks English fluently). And per this NGram, smooth/ly is rare. Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 11:11
  • 3
    Note that the collocation "smooth English" wouldn't really mean anything to most Anglophones. Also note that speaking smoothly isn't a common collocation - but smooth talking is, and that's all about being a convincing con-artist / trickster, nothing to do with verbal fluency as such. Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 11:15

3 Answers 3


Generally, when people refer to their level in a certain language, the idiomatic technical word is fluent (or speak fluently). Smooth is used more to describe the manner of speech rather than to assess the level of language proficiency. As in smooth-talker:

a person who gets another person to do their bidding by using a slick, gently persuasive, practised, or competent manner

  • He's such a smooth talker, he can persuade anyone to do anything. (Collins)

Being descriptive, smoothly can definitely be intensified. Fluent/fluently is more used in formal writing and often refers itself to a degree of knowledge (between proficient and native), and so it is not commonly intensified, at least in formal contexts. However, fluent/fluently is not restricted to this conotation, and this is where it overlaps with smooth/smoothly in meaning.

So both really smoothly and really fluently exist (though less common than really smooth and really fluent), but more idiomatically combined with other verbs than speak:

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The adjectives "smoothly" and "fluently" might be interpreted differently in different contexts.

For a native speaker, "fluently" might be understood to mean: "quickly, clearly, using complex and technical vocabulary precisely" Whereas "smoothly might mean in a gentle flowing intonation."

For a learner "fluently" might be understood to mean "without hesitation" and be similar to "smoothly"

There is a little difference between "Speak English" and "Speak in English" that has been asked before, see if you can find the question. It is possible to use "really" but it is a weak modifier, and you can either omit or find a better adverb.

  • Do you mean "the adverbs smoothly and fluently"?
    – fev
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 12:14

Is there a difference between 'speak fluently' and 'speak smoothly' in meaning?

Wiktionary can shed some light on this:


In casual use, “fluency” refers to language proficiency broadly, while in narrow use it refers to using a language flowingly, rather than haltingly.


  • Glib (Artfully persuasive but insincere in nature; smooth-talking, honey-tongued, silver-tongued.)
  • Flowing or uttered without check, obstruction, or hesitation; not harsh

That said, it also depends on the context. One might describe the manner of someone's speech as "fluent", synonymous with "smooth". However, it is much more common for the phrase "speak fluently" to refer to someone whose proficiency with a language is at or approaches the level of a native speaker. That is, someone might speak both "fluently" and with a very staccato, clipped voice which would hardly be described as "smooth".

In other words, "fluent" usually refers to one's proficiency with a language while "smooth" describes a particular tone of voice.

Is it correct to use 'smoothly' to describe 'speak English' such as 'He speaks English smoothly' and 'He speaks smoothly in English"?

I would say it is unusual, at the least. Consider that an antonym might be "harshly". I suppose one might speak a particular language harshly (or smoothly), but usually there would not be a correlation between language and tone.

In any case, if your intent is to describe someone speaking with proficiency, with good pronunciation, and without hesitation due to being unsure about word choice, "fluently" would be a better choice than "smoothly".

Can 'really" go with 'smoothly' like 'speak really smoothly'?

Maybe, but "very" is probably a better choice. (In fact, I believe this is true for adverbs in general, but there may be exceptions which are not immediately coming to mind. "Really" would more typically be used with a verb or adjective: "I'm really trying" or "the rock is really smooth". With adjectives, "very" often works equally well: "the rock is very smooth", with "really" likely coming across as less formal.) Note, however, that I would not typically expect to see "very fluently", as fluency (in the sense of proficiency) would not generally be qualified. One either possesses fluency, or does not.

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