Long Time no Talk vs. Long Time No See: Which One is Correct?

Long Time no Talk vs. Long Time No See: Which One is Correct?

Have you heard people saying ‘Long time no talk?’

And then you hear others saying that the phrase is incorrect and the proper one is ‘Long time no see,’ you get confused. As an English student, you don’t know if you should use it and which one is grammatically correct and acceptable.

Although English is considered a global language, you can find plenty of words and phrases borrowed from other languages and become part of an everyday language, including creole and pidgin versions of the language.

It means that English is open to every new and famous phrase or expression, making it that way richer in vocabulary and giving more possibilities to use synonyms. Even most common English words and phrases can be expressed in several different ways, so knowing as many of them is one of the things every learner leans to.

In order to make it all clear once and for all, in this post, we will discuss the expressions ‘Long time no talk’ and ‘Long time no see.’ We will also see how and when to use them and in which situations.

Long Time No Talk Vs. Long Time No See

What is the difference between these two expressions?

 Or do they have something in common?

If we look at the words in both phrases, from the perspective of vocabulary, the only difference is that the first expression uses the verb ‘talk’ while the second one is ‘see.’

Both of these verbs have different meanings. ‘Talk’ can be defined as communicating with words to give information or express feelings or ideas. ‘See,’ on the other hand, means to perceive, to notice with your eyes.

The phrase ‘long time’ refers to a long period of time, which can be days, weeks, months, even years.

Long time no+verb is a fixed expression, which means ‘It’s been a long time since…’

So, from this point of view, these two phrases differ only in one word, the verb. However, that word is the whole point of the expression, making more options to use the term with different verbs and not changing the meaning entirely.

What Does ‘Long Time no Talk’ Mean?

This phrase is used in informal greetings and conversations.

It probably originates from the pidgin English spoken by Chinese immigrants. 

People use it in situations when they come into a friend with who they haven’t talked for a while or the last time they’ve been talking was a really long time ago.

Therefore, its meaning is a greeting for someone you haven’t talked to for a while.

Can You Say ‘Long Time no Talk?’

Grammatically speaking, the phrase isn’t correct.

However, idioms don’t necessarily have to be grammatically correct to be accepted and widely used, especially in informal conversations.

Since this is a fixed form of the expression, it can’t be combined with other forms into a proper and grammatically correct sentence.

So, you can say ‘Long time no talk’ when you haven’t seen and talked to someone for a long time.

What Does ‘Long Time No See’ Mean?

The idiom ‘Long time no see’ comes from the pidgin English used by the Chinese. The explanation lies in grammar. It matches with Chinese 好久不見 (hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn) word-for-word, so looking from a Chinese point of view, the phrase is grammatically correct.

Just like the phrase ‘Long time no talk,’ this one means that you haven’t seen someone for a long time, that is, you haven’t met and talked for quite a while.

Is It Correct to Say ‘Long Time no See?’

Just like the idiom ‘Long time no talk’ is widely accepted and used, the same is with the phrase ‘Long time no see.’

However, in formal conversations, it isn’t recommended to use the phrase. But, among close friends and family members, you are free to use it.

How do you use ‘Long time no see?’

It is essential to understand that this is an expression.

It means that you can write and use it the way you hear it: ‘Long time no see.’

Other alternatives you can use are the following:

  • It’s been a long time since I saw you.
  • It’s been a long time since we talked.
  • I haven’t seen you for (a very) long time!
  • I haven’t seen you for a while!
  • We haven’t seen/met (each other) for a long time.

Other ‘Long Time No Speak/Hear’ Idioms

As we already explained, you can use the phrase the same way as the above mentioned. By changing the verb to speak or hear, you partly change its meaning. 

Yes, partly, not wholly because whichever verb you put, you get more or less the meaning that you haven’t seen and talked to that person for days, weeks, maybe even years.

How Do You Respond to The ‘Long Time No Speak?’

To understand the point of using and responding to the phrase ‘Long time no speak,’ let’s look at the following example.

Example: Person A and person B are old friends. One day, they accidentally come across each other in the street.

Person A: Hello, B! How are you? Long time no speak.

Person B: Hi A! I’m fine, thank you. Yes, you are right; we really haven’t talked for a long time. Maybe we should go for coffee? What about tomorrow afternoon?

Person A: Of course, I would like that. 

As you see, you can respond to the phrase the same way the speaker would state that you two haven’t seen and talked for a while.

Can You Use ‘Long Time No Hear'?

The phrase ‘Long time no hear’ is similar to ‘Long time no see.’

In a situation when you haven’t communicated with someone familiar for a long time, you can use this expression.

You can also use this expression when talking to someone over the phone.


John: Hey, Tom! Long time no hear!

Tom: Hi, John! Yes, it’s been a long time since we’ve heard from each other.

Final Thoughts

By the standard English rules, it is clear that the expression ‘Long time no +verb’ isn’t grammatically correct.

However, idioms don’t have to be grammatically correct in order to use them. Idioms, after all, have their own rules.

As long as you use it informally, it is perfectly proper and correct due to the fixed idioms’ standards. Not that you are going to use it in your academic research anyway.

And how would you respond if a native English speaker tells you ‘Long time no speak?’

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