Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Say and Tell

Say vs Tell

There is not much difference in the meanings of “say” and “tell.” But when we look at the usages of these two words, they are different from each other and cannot be used interchangeably.

Usages of “say” in the English language

When we need to report something, we use “say.” For example, She said, “I am going to the market.” Here one person is reporting about the whereabouts of, and what the other person said, to the third person. Another way of reporting this information would be; “She said she was going to the market.” The reporting could be about a person’s questions, a person’s answers, and many different things. For example, She said, “Why was he taking so long to walk to the market?” “He is taking the longer route.” One is a question and one is an answer, but both things are being told or reported to a third person.

When “say” is used, the person who is told the information is not mentioned. Meaning the person to whom we are reporting is not mentioned. For example, He said he will meet in the evening. Here it is not mentioned to whom the person said that he will be meeting in the evening; it is understood. If that person is mentioned, then we have to use “to” in front of the person who is told. For example, He said to me that he will meet in the evening. Here it is specifically mentioned whom “he” reported to.
“Say” is used to inquire about the usages of languages. For example, How do you say “please” in French? The answer to this will start as, “We say…”
“Say” is used before words like a name, a word, a sentence. For example, “If you say a word about this to anyone, you will be in trouble.”

Usages of “tell” in the English language

When we need to instruct or inform somebody, we use “tell.” For example, “Tell him I went to the market.” Here, one person is instructing the other person to inform the third person about his/her whereabouts. Another way “tell” is used is when information is required, for example, “Could you please tell me the way to the market?”
“Tell” is used before the person told the information. For example, “Did she tell you she was going to market?” Here, the third person is asking the first person”you” about the second person”she.” Tell is followed by the person who is asked.
“Tell” is also used for the purpose of narration. For example, She is very good at telling horror stories. We also use “tell” when we tell the time, tell stories, tell the truth, tell lies, tell the differences, etc.


1.“Say” is used to report. It could be simple reporting or in the form of a question or answer whereas “tell” is used for informing and instructing.
2.“Say” is used without mentioning the person who is told, but if that person is mentioned, then “to” is used after “say.” 3.“Tell” is followed by the person who is told.
4.“Say” is used to ask about languages; “tell” is used for narration.

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