Is it the same as "speaking on behalf of" ? Or does "speaking for someone else" mean trying to give an opinion about something that someone else is experiencing without you yourself going through that experience ? If so, what is a single word or a phrase that can be used to express that ?


Let's say a bunch of friends including John and myself are discussing about going on a picnic. I know that John doesn't like picnicking. So I say, in the presence of John, "John doesn't like to go on picnics". And John says (annoyedly) "speak for yourself". In this context, which one is meaningful; "speaking for John" or "speaking on behalf of John" ?

Thank you.

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    Yes, speaking for John does mean speaking on behalf of John. But obviously that doesn't necessarily mean you yourself have never experienced whatever John has, that causes you to make whatever statement you do on his behalf. Maybe you're just saying it because John isn't present, or is too shy to speak for himself, etc. I doubt there would be a single word for this that you could use naturally in conversation, but never say never. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 14:33
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    When John says (annoyedly) "speak for yourself", he is saying to you that you have been presumptuous to speak for him as he does not want you to speak on his behalf.
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 14:47

1 Answer 1


"Speaking for" someone and "speaking on behalf of" someone mean essentially the same thing, with one fairly major difference. To really be "speaking on behalf" of someone, that someone needs to consent to you doing so. So if someone says they are "speaking on behalf of" John, they are implying that John knows what they are doing and approves of it. You can "speak for" someone without their consent, as in your example between you and John. So "speaking for" can have a negative connotation, but does not necessarily. "Speaking on behalf of" does not have a negative connotation, unless you have reason to believe that they are not telling the truth.

  • Thank you. Is there a single word to mean "speaking for someone" ?
    – user21850
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 15:43

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