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Say vs Tell: When To use Say or Tell

Say vs Tell

Say or tell? When do you use say? When do you use tell?

This can be very confusing for English learners. In today’s article, I hope to clarify the difference between say vs tell for you and provide you with some resources that might be helpful.

Be sure to watch the video on our YouTube channel to support your learning here as well. 

Video lesson

Alright, let’s get into it.

Say

Part of speech: verb

Type: irregular

Meaning: utter words so as to convey information, an opinion, a feeling or intention, or an instruction

MeaningSimple present tense3rd person present tensePast tensePast participleGerund or present participle
utter words so as to convey information, an opinion, a feeling or intention, or an instruction.saysayssaidsaidsaying

How to use “say” in a sentence:

Rule 1: 

say + something

Examples:

  1. Did you say I’m pretty? 
  2. He said he likes studying English.
  3. I think it says we should leave.
  4. She said she was tired.
  5. We said no to the offer.
say vs tell, say or tell, when to use say or tell
Image source: ClickOnEnglish

Rule 2: 

Say + something + to someone. 

Examples:

  1. What did Andrew say to you yesterday?
  2. I haven’t said anything to him yet.
  3. Did Sonoko say anything to you?
  4. Why did you say those things to Sara?
  5. How could you say such awful things to your friend?

Tell

Part of speech: verb

Type: irregular

Meaning: communicate information to someone in spoken or written words.

MeaningSimple present tense3rd person present tensePast tensePast participleGerund or present participle
communicate information to someone in spoken or written words.telltellstoldtoldtelling

How to use “tell” in a sentence:

Rule 1: 

Tell + someone

Examples: 

  1. I finally published my first book! I can’t wait to tell everyone!
  2. Have you told Jack yet?
  3. Did you tell her what I said?
  4. I thought they told you about the meeting.
  5. Say hi to your mom for me.

Rule 2: 

Tell + someone + something

Examples:

  1. They told us to bring our own lunch to work.
  2. She told me she loved me.
  3. The librarian tells the students to be quiet.
  4. Stop telling everyone my age!
  5. He promised he’s tell me his secret when he got back.

I hope this has helped you to understand the basic rule of thumb when it comes to using say or tell. As said before, generally speaking, we say something or we say something to someone. We tell someone or we tell someone something.

Articles you might like:

8 Practical Ways to Practice English Speaking

5 Sure Ways To Improve Your English Speaking Skills

The 5 Finger Rule: How to choose a book that’s just right to improve your English

Now, I hope that clarified it for you because I am going to give you a pop quiz! 

Say vs Tell Quiz

#1. Joshua ____ he was hungry.

#2. Alicia _____ me she was going for a jog today.

#3. I’m not going to keep ____ you the same thing over and over again.

#4. Lisa stands up and firmly ____ Josh to leave.

#5. What did he ____ you about last night?

#6. Did she ____ anything about my presentation?

#7. She ____ her mom she wanted to quit law school.

#8. They ____ that would visit us this weekend.

#9. Did Lucas ____ anything to you last night?

#10. I didn’t believe it when she ____ me she would leave.

finish

Results

improve your english, english quiz, free english quiz Fantastic! You’re a fast learner! I’m so proud of you. Be sure to check out the other content on the blog to keep boosting your English skills.

Resources

say vs tell, when to use say or tell

So close! Don’t worry you can try again, jeep practicing.

Be sure to check out the other content on the blog to keep boosting your English skills.

Resources

Additional resources

Say vs. Tell – Said vs. Told

Say or tell?

Say vs Tell bonus questions: 

Before you go, here are a few bonus questions to help you practice even more.

Bonus question 1:

Is the following sentence correct: “Can you say me that again?

No, it’s not correct. “Can you tell me that again?” is the correct thing to say.

Bonus question 2:

Next bonus question: Is this sentence correct: “can you say me what the time is?”

No, it’s not correct. “Can you tell me what the time is?” is the correct thing to say. 

Bonus question 3:

Last one. Is this sentence correct? “What did the teacher tell to you?”

No, it’s not because “What did the teacher say to you?” is the correct thing to say.

By now I hope that you will have understood the difference between when to use say or tell. If you have any other questions the comment section down below is always open. Please do not hesitate. You can also send me your questions on Instagram. I will respond to them as soon as I can. 

Till next time, Bye!

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