say and tell

  • Tell means inform’ or ‘order’. After tell, we usually say who is told: a personal object is necessary.
      [tell + person]
      She told me that she would be late. (NOT -She tohithat she . . .)
      I told the children to go away.

    Say is usually used without a personal object.

      She said that she would be late. (NOT She said me . . .)
      If we want to put a personal object after say, we use to.
      She said ‘Go away’ to the children.
  • Say is often used before direct speech. Tell is not.
      She said Go away’. (NOT She told ‘Go away’.)
  • In a few expressions, we use tell without a personal object. The most common: tell the truth, tell a lie, tell the time (= knowhow to read a clock).
      I don’t think she’s telling the truth (NOT . . . saying the truth.)
      He’s seven years old and he still can’t tell the time.