Learn English with English, baby!

Join for FREE!

Social_nav_masthead_logged_in
Say or Tell

Say or Tell

Date: Oct 27 2007

Topic: Grammar

Author: gkisseberth

Lesson

Many of my Spanish speaking friends often confuse the English verbs 'say' and 'tell'

Both verbs involve the act of speaking, and both can be used to report someone else's speech, so how do you know when to use them?

 The simplest rule to remember is this

  • We SAY something     
  • We TELL someone something  
   
  • TELL is usually followed by a personal object (the person you are taking to) for example:

"I told Ray that he got the promotion."    "Can you tell me how to get to the mall?"

"Please don't tell the teacher that I forgot my homework."

 

  • SAY is usually used without an object. for example:

 

"She said Ray got the promotion."    "Paula says you have a new job."

"The teacher said that the homework was due tomorrow."

 

  • If you want to use a personal object after SAY, you can use "said to" as in

Sally said to Tom "I love you"  or  Anthony said to me that he was busy

(Although these are grammatically correct, I feel that they are awkward)

 

Of course, as with all things English, there are exceptions. There are a few set phrases that always use TELL and not SAY. 

  • tell (someone) a story  or tell a story
  • tell (someone) a lie      or tell a lie
  • tell (someone) the truth     or tell the truth
  • tell the future (= to know what the future will bring)
  • tell the time (= know how to read a clock)

 

Here's a an online quiz you can use to check yourself. TELL me how you do!

 http://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/cw-say-tell_quiz.htm 

Comments

Log in to Comment

Amar pandey

India

Now I got the difference between tell and say. thank you so mcuh!!!!

07:34 AM Mar 21 2011 |

pink angel

pink angel

Saudi Arabia

thanks

 

i liked the part which is a bout the exceptions

06:38 AM Jul 30 2008 |

southman

southman

Italy

Great!  It's amusing!

Thanx  ;) 

04:35 PM Apr 15 2008 |

michel2010

Cote D'Ivoire

great!! thank you

12:19 PM Mar 05 2008 |

flyhuangchun

China

it  useful for  me 

thanks 

02:35 PM Mar 04 2008 |

karry zhang

China

very good ,think you very much,

01:02 PM Mar 04 2008 |

zirtack

zirtack

Brazil

Now I understood when and how they are used, thanks.

11:43 AM Mar 04 2008 |

nrewndj

Russian Federation

It is useful and necessary.

07:16 AM Jan 23 2008 |

rita tchamitchian

Lebanon

thats for kids:S

04:07 PM Jan 17 2008 |

ji3g4dk

ji3g4dk

Taiwan

thanks!!

i always confuse~~

 

10:57 AM Jan 15 2008 |

448.sniper

Yemen

 I'd like to say a few words about thatCool

I think you'd better tell me exactly what's been going on around here.

10:39 AM Jan 15 2008 |

chenshanwang

China

   is    very  wonderful,  it  help  me   understand  more

09:36 AM Jan 15 2008 |

adel28031984

Algeria

hank you very much for these informations

07:06 AM Jan 15 2008 |

visioner

visioner

Indonesia

It's nice article, keep sharing …...

03:43 AM Jan 15 2008 |

adel28031984

Algeria

thank you for this lesson

01:24 PM Jan 12 2008 |

Likes (111):

See all >

Share this lesson:

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Bebo
  • Share on Myspace
  • Share on Twitter
  • Email this to a friend
  • Share on Sina

Post Ebaby! lessons on your blog:

Ebaby! Cast