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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

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uniSen

Mongolia

thx, i have learned one more things

09:40 AM Nov 24 2007 |

joanna86

joanna86

China

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07:48 AM Nov 24 2007 |

cheng0514

China

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07:25 AM Nov 24 2007 |

Asad Khan

Pakistan

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07:02 AM Nov 24 2007 |

夏娜

夏娜

China

Very  good

06:47 AM Nov 24 2007 |

don2ccc

China

Great lesson~~Great teacher..thank u so much…

06:37 AM Nov 24 2007 |

AXI

Azerbaijan

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05:20 AM Nov 24 2007 |

feizaimi

feizaimi

China

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04:14 AM Nov 24 2007 |

nsdma

nsdma

Viet Nam

thanks for your share.its very useful

03:48 AM Nov 24 2007 |

刘海艳

刘海艳

China

Good Oh It is very good

03:26 AM Nov 24 2007 |

gkisseberth

Colombia

Thanks for all the positive comments!

02:21 AM Nov 24 2007 |

zhishi

Antarctica

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01:58 AM Nov 24 2007 |

xiyuanzi1006

China

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01:26 AM Nov 24 2007 |

russhel

russhel

Philippines

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11:12 PM Nov 23 2007 |

lorena_gl

Mexico

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06:35 PM Nov 23 2007 |

zain15

zain15

Saudi Arabia

valuable lesson

Thank you.

04:32 PM Nov 23 2007 |

maria_85

Morocco

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09:22 PM Nov 22 2007 |

gkisseberth

Colombia

Thanks very much.

01:01 PM Oct 28 2007 |

kittyzghz

kittyzghz

China

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02:57 AM Oct 28 2007 |

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