Say and Tell (Intermediate)

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Tagged with: Intermediate Vocabulary, Frequently Confused Words

Say and tell mean the same thing but are used in different constructions.


  • We say something
  • We say something to someone
  • We say to someone something
  • We tell someone something

Preposition to is never used after tell.


  • Mother said: “I am very happy.”
  • Mother said (that) she was very happy.
  • Mother said to me, “I am very happy.”
  • Mother told me (that) she was happy.

Commands and advice: Tell + object + infinitive – is used for commands and advice:

  • Tell someone (not) to do something


  • The teacher told us to stand up.
  • She told me not to worry about the time.

Remember the following phrases with say:

so you say

it goes without saying

Remember the following phrases with tell:

tell a story/stories

tell a joke/jokes

tell a lie/lies

tell the truth

tell the future (= to know what the future will bring)

tell the time (= know how to read a clock)

tell apart (=to be able to see the difference between two things/people)

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