‘Talk the talk but not walk the walk’ – English idiom with meaning and examples

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

If you say that someone talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, it means that what they do doesn’t agree with what they say. For example:

When it comes to housework, many a husband
talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk.

The expression doesn’t necessarily have to follow this exact pattern. The following example is taken from Roy Zimmerman’s sarcastic song Chickenhawk (chickenhawk is a term used in the US to mock people who strongly support war and yet actively avoided any kind of military service):

Chickenhawk – Call me a Chickenhawk
Chickenhawk – proud to be a Chickenhawk
A loyal arm chair jock
["jock" is a pejorative US term for someone who likes only one activity]
Let’s check that Lockheed stock [Lockheed is an American company]
I didn’t walk the walk, but I can talk the talk
Bawk bawk bawk bawk bawk bawk bawk bawwwwk!

The term can also be used as a command:

Don’t just talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.

Used as a command, it is synonymous to another idiomatic expression: “practice what you preach”.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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