|| and TELL
Here are some of the most common errors using SAY and TELL. The correct form is given first.
- He said (that) he could not come to the party.
- He told me (that) he could not come to the party.
- When talking about what someone said, we use TELL when we mention the person spoken to (here = "me"). TELL is not often used for direct speech. See next item.
- He said, "I cannot come to the party."
- He told me, "I cannot come to the party."
- When we wish to give the exact words spoken (direct speech), we normally use SAY. We can use TELL for direct speech when we are giving a command or instructions.
There were a lot of people in the street so I told my daughter: "Stay near me. You won't get lost that way."
- It's not true. You are telling lies.
- It's not true. You are saying lies.
- I like it when Bob tells stories. He's a great storyteller.
- I like it when Bob says stories. He's a great storyteller.
- We use TELL rather than SAY with certain expression:
and in these cases it is not necessary to mention the person that one is speaking to:
- tell a joke
- tell a lie
- tell a secret
- tell a story
- tell the truth
The children were too excited to sleep so I told (them) a bedtime story
- It's snowing. I knew it would and I said so.
- It's snowing. I knew it would and I said it.
- It's snowing. I knew it would and I told you so.
- It's snowing. I knew it would and I told you it.
- It is better to use "so" rather than "it" in these situations. It is certainly more common.