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  1. learning54's Avatar
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    #1

    Question on the verbs 'say' and 'tell'

    Hi teachers,
    I was told that the rule for the verbs 'say' and 'tell' is as follows:
    a) You say something.
    b) You tell someone something.
    My question is, if that is the rule, how come in the sentence below we have 'said' + 'to Adam'?
    Where is he? What’s he doing? Felix said to Adam.

    Thanks in advance.

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    #2

    Re: Question on the verbs 'say' and 'tell'

    You shouldn't think that this rule gives complete information on the use of "say" and "tell" in English.

    "Say" means pretty much the same as "utter", only you can utter any kind of sound, but you usually say words. When you ask someone a question, you are saying something. When you tell somebody about your day, you are also saying something. We often say things to somebody. But sometimes the things we say don't have any particular addressee. When I bang my head against a piece of furniture and say "ouch" or "damn", I'm not saying it to anyone.

    When you tell someone something, it is usually a piece of information. You can tell me your age, a lie or what happened to your sister a week ago. When you ask me a question, you're not telling me anything (but you're probably expecting me to tell you something).
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 14-May-2012 at 18:28.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Question on the verbs 'say' and 'tell'

    Quote Originally Posted by learning54 View Post
    Hi teachers,
    I was told that the rule for the verbs 'say' and 'tell' is as follows:
    a) You say something.
    b) You tell someone something.
    My question is, if that is the rule, how come in the sentence below we have 'said' + 'to Adam'?
    Where is he? What’s he doing? Felix said to Adam.

    Thanks in advance.
    I think you may be confusing it with the rule of:

    You say something to someone.
    You tell someone something ("to" is not used here).

    Many learners forget this and try to use "He told to me..." etc, it's a very common error.

  3. learning54's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Question on the verbs 'say' and 'tell'

    Hi birdeen's call,
    Thank you for your reply and help.

    Learning

  4. learning54's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Question on the verbs 'say' and 'tell'

    You say something to someone.
    You tell someone something ("to" is not used here).
    Hi,
    I used to say it, but then an American person told me this, 'With 'say' it is not used 'to someone' after it. If we want to say to whom it was said, we use the verb 'tell.'

  5. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Question on the verbs 'say' and 'tell'

    Quote Originally Posted by learning54 View Post
    Hi,
    I used to say it, but then an American person told me this, 'With 'say' it is not used 'to someone' after it. If we want to say to whom it was said, we use the verb 'tell.'
    I really don't understand what that person was trying to explain.

    "That tree is green", John said to Susan.
    "That tree is green", John told Susan.

    David said to me yesterday that he wants to live in America.
    David told me yesterday that he wants to live in America.

    My personal choice would be "told/tell" in both of those examples but there is no reason why you can't say "he said to her" etc.

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    #7

    Re: Question on the verbs 'say' and 'tell'

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    I think you may be confusing it with the rule of:

    You say something to someone.
    You tell someone something ("to" is not used here).

    Many learners forget this and try to use "He told to me..." etc, it's a very common error.
    I agree that

    He told to me the truth.


    is incorrect (in Present-day English). However, I believe

    He told the truth to me.

    is fine, though less common.

  6. learning54's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Question on the verbs 'say' and 'tell'

    I really don't understand what that person was trying to explain.

    "That tree is green", John said to Susan.
    "That tree is green", John told Susan.
    Hi,
    Thank you for your reply. So, both verbs can take two objects, can't they?

    This is what he told me:
    In most ordinary usage the verb say’ changes to tell if you mention the person who heard the message.
    If we need to mention the listener, tell + someone is generally preferable and better than say + to someone.

    Say "to someone"
    So this is perfectly right:

    • He said to me that he was tired.
    • Tara said to Ram that he had done very well.
    • Anthony said to her, "I hope you come soon."
    • "I'd like to sleep," she said to him quietly.

      Learning

    Last edited by learning54; 14-May-2012 at 21:07.

  7. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Question on the verbs 'say' and 'tell'

    Quote Originally Posted by learning54 View Post
    Hi,
    Thank you for your reply. So, both verbs can take two objects, can't they?



    Say "to someone"
    So this is perfectly right:

    • He said to me that he was tired.
    • Tara said to Ram that he had done very well.
    • Anthony said to her, "I hope you come soon."
    • "I'd like to sleep," she said to him quietly.

      Learning

    All of them are fine. You could also use "told" instead of "said to me/her/him".

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    #10

    Re: Question on the verbs 'say' and 'tell'

    I'm afraid that Learning might be under the impression that "say to" and "tell" are interchangable when they're quoting what someone said to someone else. In case that's the case I would like to make my point clearer. As far as I know,

    Where is he? What’s he doing? Felix told Adam.


    is not correct English.

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