I've been trying to read Japanese articles (easy ones) and was wondering if someone could explain how と話す and と言う differ in nuance or meaning. They seem to be used interchangeably.

For example, how would the following sentence's meaning (assuming my translation is accurate of course) change if 言っていました were used instead of 話していました? (This is an article about a Gyouza festival that happened recently by the way).

千葉県から来た男性は「いろいろなギョーザを食べることができて、とても楽しいです」と話していました A Man from Chiba-ken said ("reported" maybe), "You can eat many kinds of gyouza. It's a lot of fun."

As a side note, if possible, could someone please address why 話していました was used rather than just 話しました and how the latter would change the meaning?

1 Answer 1


Roughly speaking, 話す is close to talk or speak, and 言う is close to say. Sometimes they can be used interchangeably (like in your 千葉県の男性 example), but sometimes they are not.

  • Saying just one word or two is not 話す. 話す is used with a relatively longer story, speech, opinion, lecture, etc.
  • 話す is rarely used without physical vocals. You can safely use 言う for something said in a written article/essay.
  • 言う doesn't necessarily require a listener (i.e., one can 言う something to oneself or to no one), while 話す almost always requires a listener.

As for your last question, I would say using 話していました is more vivid and favorable than 話しました in a news article like this, but it's difficult for me to explain why. A similar question is asked before: What's the difference between「~と言いました」and「~と言っていました」?

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