Tell or Say

They mean the same thing, but they’re different in use.


Sentence 1 – He says: “Let’s start dinner.”

Sentence 2 – She tells me she is getting married.

Maybe you’ve noticed what the difference is: The sentence with “tell” has an object. The object is the person or the people who listen when you tell them something. The object in sentence 2 is “me.”

Rule: When you have an object in your sentence, you have to use “tell.”

Example of a wrong sentence: They say you: “Welcome to our new home.”

The object “you” is not good together with “say.”

To correct the sentence, you can do two things:

– You can take out the “you.” Like this: They say: “Welcome to our new home.”

– Or you can use “tell.” Like this: They tell you: “Welcome to our new home.” (correct)

Some more examples of correct and incorrect sentences:

My neighbours told me I play my music too loud. (correct)

I told them to stop complaining. (correct)

You said that you didn’t understand. (correct)

Our guests said they enjoyed the party. (correct)

He said he will tell me tomorrow. (correct)

Melissa says she is happy. (correct)

She said me a lie. (incorrect)

Walter says his friends he is going to move. (incorrect)

The manager said his workers that the profits have gone up. (incorrect)

Last week you said me something else. (incorrect)

I hope this is clear!

told you so

Now do the Exercise:

Fill in: said or told

1. He ______ me he was going to quit his job.

2. She _________ she preferred tea.

3. Benson __________: “I’m going to order tickets for the game.”

4. The actress ___________ the Oscar guests that she thanked her parents first of all.

5. The police __________ the press they didn’t have any clues yet.

6. Percy __________ him that he didn’t have money for the trip.

7. Shelly __________ she wanted to make the last train.

8. “This is your last chance to get a pass,” her teacher __________ her.

9.  Amir _________ that he had a terrible headache.

Answers at the bottom of the page.




















1. told

2. said

3. said

4. told

5. told

6. told

7. said

8. told

9. said

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