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  1. englishhobby's Avatar
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    #1

    'said' - for direct speech only while 'told' - for indirect speech only?

    Many English teachers I know teach that we can't substitute 'tell sb' with 'say to sb' (and the other way round) in the following sentences (and the like):

    1) He said to his girlfriend: 'I am going to throw a party.' (direct speech)

    2) He told his girlfriend he was going to throw a party. (indirect speech)

    The rule (for such cases) is:
    'Said' is used for direct speech only
    'Told' is used for indirect speech only

    Is it right? Can't we say:
    1) He told his girlfriend: 'I am going to throw a party.' (direct speech)
    2) He said to his girlfriend he was going to throw a party. (indirect speech)

    If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up. :-)

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    #2

    Re: 'said' - for direct speech only while 'told' - for indirect speech only?

    You are correct.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: 'said' - for direct speech only while 'told' - for indirect speech only?

    I don't agree with SD. We are definitely more likely to use say to with direct speech and tell with indirect, but we are not obliged to. Englishhobby's second pair of sentences are possible. With direct speech, we normally use tell to instruct or inform people, not to greet, explain, or ask questions.

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    #4

    Re: 'said' - for direct speech only while 'told' - for indirect speech only?

    If we are not obliged, then it is not an "only" rule and his second set of sentences are OK. Which is why I said he was correct.

  3. 5jj's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: 'said' - for direct speech only while 'told' - for indirect speech only?

    Sorry. I misunderstood your 'You are correct' response to englishhobby's 'Can't we say ...?'

  4. englishhobby's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: 'said' - for direct speech only while 'told' - for indirect speech only?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    Sorry. I misunderstood your 'You are correct' response to englishhobby's 'Can't we say ...?'
    So did I. Now I see that ALL my sentences are correct.

    Thanks for the explanation.
    If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up. :-)

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    #7

    Re: 'said' - for direct speech only while 'told' - for indirect speech only?

    Some 'rules' are really descriptions of tendencies rather than anything fixed. This one is not a rule.

  5. 5jj's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: 'said' - for direct speech only while 'told' - for indirect speech only?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Some 'rules' are really descriptions of tendencies rather than anything fixed.
    We need to play with the system so that that sentence appears on the screen every time someone says they want to know the 'rule' about X.

  6. englishhobby's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: 'said' - for direct speech only while 'told' - for indirect speech only?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    We need to play with the system so that that sentence appears on the screen every time someone says they want to know the 'rule' about X.
    ...or a new meaning of the word "rule" should be added to dictionaries as 'tendency' (esp. in English Grammar)

    This forum is very helpful with tendencies and frequency of usage, which is invaluable for English language learners.
    If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up. :-)

  7. 5jj's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: 'said' - for direct speech only while 'told' - for indirect speech only?

    Quote Originally Posted by englishhobby View Post
    ...or a new meaning of the word "rule" should be added to dictionaries as 'tendency' (esp. in English Grammar)
    Note that Tdol didn't say it was a tendency, but a description of a tendency.

    In fact many good dictionaries (see definition 7 here, for example), do not suggest that a grammatical rule is a law.

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