Difference between Say and Tell | Say vs Tell

So “do you tell something?” or “do you say something?” Which among these two do you think is correct? Confused, isn’t it! It’s not just you, but many students often get messed up using these two terms. So how can they remember when and how to use these terms? The article will discuss how one can use these terms in the proper context.

Most people feel that the English Language is a dreadful language as it appears to be confusing to many. For example, when it comes to these pairs of words, i.e. ‘say’ and ‘tell’, most people use them interchangeably. Most students do not have an idea whether these words can be used for the same context or not. Let’s go through the following points to understand the meaning and difference between these two words.

Table Summarising the Difference between Say and Tell




The word say means to convey some information or instruction or feelings.

The word tell means to inform or announce something.


It is used as a Verb.

It is used as a Verb.


Can you say how to reach the church?

Please tell your mother to meet me soon.

If you look at the meaning of both these words, you’ll notice that both of them have almost the same meaning. But can they be used interchangeably? It still remains doubtful to many students. The following in-depth analysis of the words will help you to understand when and how you can use them.

The Difference between Say and Tell – Meaning

The simple way to understand the difference between ‘say’ and ‘tell’ is that the former is used unaccompanied by an indirect object, whereas the latter is used along with the indirect object. Now the common question that might arise in the mind of many is what is an indirect object? In simple terms, the indirect object is the one that receives/gets the direct object. For example, “Please tell your parents to meet me soon.” Here, ‘your parents’ is the indirect object. Also, the word ‘say’ is generally used with direct speech, unlike the word ‘tell’. The word ‘tell’ is used with indirect objects and ‘to-infinitive’. For example, “Mary told us to meet her at the park.” The ‘to-infinitive’ is also used with the word ‘say’ to give an instruction or command. For example, “Henry was said to leave the room.” The following examples will help students grasp the concept a little more clearly.

Example of Say and Tell

The examples below will be beneficial for students to understand the words ‘say’ and ‘tell’.

Say – Please say hello to our new Principal. (verb)

Tell – Tell the boys not to make a sound and wake the baby. (verb)

The examples will prove to be beneficial for the students to understand that ‘say’ and ‘tell’ aren’t synonymous or interchangeable.

Say and Tell – Conclusion

Thus, to sum up, the words ‘say’ and ‘tell’ can’t be used in place of one another as one requires an indirect object and one doesn’t. This article points out how the words ‘say’ and ‘tell’ are different from one another, thus making it easier for students to put them in sentences without confusion. BYJU’S offers various articles on many such ‘differences between two words’ that students often get confused with.

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