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  1. englishhobby's Avatar
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    #1

    She said to me / she told me

    1) She said to me he was in hospital.
    2) She told me he was in hospital.

    Which sentence is more natural? Are they equally frequent?
    If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up. :-)

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: She said to me / she told me

    For me, #2 is more common.

  3. Bennevis's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: She said to me / she told me

    They way I see it, "say to" is mostly used in direct speech.

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    #4

    Re: She said to me / she told me

    Not according to this analysis.

  4. Bennevis's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: She said to me / she told me

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    Not according to this analysis.
    I've looked at it. Just can't figure out where it says "direct speech".

  5. Roman55's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: She said to me / she told me

    I am not a teacher.

    Interesting as the Ngram Viewer may be, comparing the frequency of two expressions that are not interchangeable has limited value.

    "say to me" may be the only way to express a certain action, and "tell me" the only way to express another.
    The fact that the latter is by far the more common of the two (which should come as no surprise to anyone) doesn't invalidate the former.

    If you look at this analysis of two similar looking words you will notice a distinct preference for one of them, and there is no meaningful conclusion to be drawn from it.

  6. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: She said to me / she told me

    Quote Originally Posted by Bennevis View Post
    I've looked at it. Just can't figure out where it says "direct speech".
    What does "direct speech" have to do with this?

  7. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: She said to me / she told me

    I disagree. One can, as you did, select two words that have different meanings in different contexts. In that case, I agree with you. But the phrases under consideration don't have the same problem. Ngrams are not perfect, but they are far from meaningless. The issue was not about invalidating either expression, it was about frequency of usage.

    The same relationship occurs with the past tense.

  8. Bennevis's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: She said to me / she told me

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    What does "direct speech" have to do with this?
    Thank you for clearing this up for me. All these years I've been telling my students to use "say to" strictly in direct speech and replace it with "tell" in reported speech. It looks like I've been wrong. I don't know what I would do without this lovely forum. It just makes me want to encourage everyone I know to join it!

  9. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: She said to me / she told me

    1. He said "Hello" to me.
    2. He said hello to me.

    3. He told me hello.

    Would you really have told your students to use 3 instead of 2?
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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