When to Use the Verbs to Say or Tell (Said vs Told)

Say or tell? Said or told?

Busra Bayram
Busra Bayram

When do you use the verbs to say or to tell? Let’s read and learn!

The words tell and say are often confused by English learners. It is easier to understand if we can distinguish small but important differences between them. Then we can easily use the proper verbs.

Very, very basically, tell and say have the same meaning, in the sense that both are describing a form of verbal communication from one person to another person or group.

The differences?

Tell requires a direct object (I told him to do it).

Say never takes an object (He said, “do it.”) It is followed by a conversation or that transmitted.

Let’s see some examples:

TELL (told)

Telling someone something; Usually used when giving information and instructions.

1.Transfer information.

2.To say something can not be done. (+ To infinitive)

3.To tell a story

Tell me about your job then.
(+ Two objects) Can you tell me the way to the market?
[FORMAL] He told us of his different stories.
[+ (That)] Did you tell anyone (that) you were going to see her?
[+ Speech] “I love you,” she told him.
[+ To infinitive] I told her to bring it.

SAY (said)  

 Pronunciation of words or voices; To express a thought, idea or suggestion, to express a truth or instruction.

Kids find it difficult to say long sentences.
[+ Speech] “I’m going to concert tonight,” she said.
She said hello to all friends .
[+ (That)] The doctors say (that) will take him a few weeks to recover.
The offer was so bad that I could not say yes.

Here’s a nice one: I told him exactly what to say at the meeting and I told him not to mess it up by saying the wrong things, but later, when he told me what he’d said at the meeting, I had to tell him, “Sorry, but that’s not what I said to say. You said the wrong things and I told you not to!” He said he was sorry and I told him it was okay.

We hope this article helps explain the differences of when to use the verbs say or tell. Let us know, and don’t forget to sign up to our email list for updates! You can also check us out on Facebook and YouTube!

Busra Bayram, Büşra Bayram
Büşra Bayram
Busra Bayram, Büşra Bayram
Busra Bayram

Busra Bayram

Busra Bayram is the co-founder of and social media model for Mad English Lab.