Easily Confused Words in English: Say and Tell
Many students learning English have some difficulty with the verbs say and tell. They nearly have the same meaning but there are instances when you can you use say but not tell and vice a versa.
The Verb Say
- Say is used with direct and indirect speech.
- Say is most often used without a personal object.
- If we want to put a personal object after say, we use to.
- We don’t use say with about. Tell me about Argentina. NOT: Say to me about Argentina.
- She said that it was my last chance.
- He said, ‘Good morning.’
- She said that she would be late. (not She said me…)
- And I say to all the people of this great country…
- tell is used with direct and indirect speech. She told me she would be late.
- after tell, we usually say who is told, i.e., tell someone something. She told me to do my homework. NOT: She told to me..
- Only use tell to mean ‘instruct’ or ‘inform’ Tell is used to tell someone to do something. My mom told me about her vacation. NOT: She told me good morning. (She said good morning.)
- Tell is not used before objects like a word, a name, a sentence, a phrase. Ana said a bad word. NOT: Ana told a bad word.
- We do not usually use it after tell to refer to a fact. I’ll tell you tomorrow. NOT: I’ll tell it to you tomorrow.
- Tell someone again (repeat). Tell me your phone number again. NOT: Say to me your phone number again.
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