tell or say ?

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Senior Member
could anyone please could tell me the difference between say & tell.
does "to tell something to someone" exists or we just have to use " to tell somebody something" ?

thanks in advance
  • Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Tell is usually more appropriate when the other person is identified: I told him that...
    Say usually sounds better when the other person is not identified: I said that....
    Of course you may add the phrase to him if you use say.

    Tell is used certain set phrases: I told the truth (or a lie.)


    UK (English)
    These are all valid:
    he told lies [to her]
    he told [her] lies
    he told her "I'm lying"
    he told her [that] he was lying
    he told her about his lies
    he told her to lie

    he said [to her] "I'm lying"
    he said "I'm lying" [to her]
    he said [to her] [that] he was lying
    he said [to her] [that] he was lying to her

    but NOT:
    he said her ... (a common error for non-native speakers)​
    I agree that tell = say to, but they're not always interchangeable.
    tell can also mean direct



    New Member
    USA English
    tell is indirectly talking about something you said prevously or are going to say
    I told Jason about the movie tonight
    I am going to tell Jason about the movie tonight
    say is when it is direct
    I said,"Jason would you like to go to a movie with me tonight?"
    Hope this was helpful
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