Difference between Say and Tell | Say vs Tell

What is the difference between ‘say’ and ‘tell’? Are they the same? Read through the article to find out if the two verbs are different and if they are, learn what makes them different in order to use them correctly.

Table of Contents

Table Summarising the Difference between Say and Tell



Meaning The word ‘say’ refers to the action of using words to convey some instruction, information, opinions or thoughts. The word ‘tell’ refers to giving some kind of instruction or information to someone specific, in speech or writing.
Usage It is used as a verb. It is used as a verb.
Example I did not say anything. Please tell your mother to meet me soon.

Difference between Say and Tell – Meaning and Usage

The English language has a lot of similar words that confuse the users of the language. ‘Say’ and ‘tell’ is one such pair. The meaning of both words seem to be similar. The main difference is in its usage. Let us look at how each verb is used.

While the verb ‘say’ is used without an object, whereas the verb ‘tell’ is always accompanied with an indirect object. For example, “Please tell your parents to meet me soon.” Here, ‘your parents’ is the indirect object. Another difference is that the verb ‘say’ is usually used to convey the exact words of the speaker (direct speech) and ‘tell’ is used to report speech (indirect/reported speech). For example, “Mary told us to meet her at the park”.

Examples of Say and Tell

The examples below will help you better understand the usage of the two verbs. Take a look.

  • Please say hello to our new Principal.
  • Why don’t you say something about your family?
  • Suresh said, “I am tired”.
  • Tell the boys not to make a sound and wake the baby.
  • My mom told me to buy a dozen eggs on my way back home.
  • Can you tell me when the next airport bus would come?


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