Difference between say and tell in tabular form

difference between say and tellWe explain that what is the difference between say and tell with table. While making sentences and speaking, we may not be aware of certain syntax and concordance errors between subject and verb, but these concepts become very important due to their ability to determine mastery of our speaking skills and write in English. Recruiters and interviewers look for people who have knowledge of the most detailed and in-depth topics.

Say and Tell may have been used interchangeably at times, but it is important to understand the difference in the implications and contexts of use of the terms.

The Difference between say and tell is that Say is used to characterize the actions of pronouncing something, perhaps an opinion or a suggestion, while Tell is used to communicate instructions, orders and advice. Different ways of Saying can be used to quote dialogues and speeches, to make comments, while different ways of Saying can be used to show certainty and emphasis.

Comparison table between say and tell (in tabular form)

Parameter of Comparison Say and tell

Definition Say is used to describe the action of giving some opinions, instructions or suggestions. As a noun, it refers to the right of a person to give opinions, points of view or recommendations. Tell is used to communicate some facts, instructions or orders to someone. It is also a special action in poker, where it is used as a noun.
Speech type It can be used as a Verb, as a Noun or as an Exclamation. It can be used as a verb or as a noun (rarely) only.
Source It originated in Germanic. It originated in Arabic.
Object When using Say in a sentence, it is not necessary to mention the object. When using Tell in a Sentence, object recognition is required.
Sentence structure Always, “we say something” or “we say something to someone.” ‘Para’ is used when there is an object involved. Always, “Tell someone something.” ‘To’ is not involved.
Use It can be used to quote someone, make comments, and report. It is used to advise, order or instruct
Special phrases ‘He said that’, ‘I’ll say’ and ‘Can’t say’. ‘I can tell you’, ‘No one can tell you’ or ‘I told you so’.
Example He said, “Everyone would be rewarded for their work.” He said, “Exercise can get you in shape.”

When to use say?

Say is used in sentences in English and its use is a bit complex to understand. The different usages of Say must be understood in order to have proper syntax and correct sentence structure.

It can be used as a verb, exclamation, or noun. As a verb, the three main forms are say, tell, and say. We always “say something” or “say something to someone”, that’s how the sentence structure goes.


  1. As an informing verb: pronounce something to convey information, suggestion, emotions, intention, instruction. For example, he said that the meeting was important.
  2. With direct speech: Quote someone’s phrases. This is done when the speaker’s speech is transmitted to someone in the original form. For example: “Welcome,” he said.
  3. From a text: Give information and instructions. For example, the sentence said that he was guilty.

Noun: Used singularly: This means an opportunity to express one’s views and recommendations and an opportunity to influence community decisions and structures. For example, everyone should have an equal voice in decision-making in an organization.

Exclamation: used in informal North American English to convey surprise or excitement at a question or comment. For example, Say it!

There are certain phrases with which only say and its forms are used. These are ‘has something to say for oneself’, ‘it goes without saying’, ‘What do you say?’, ‘I will say’, ‘One cannot say’, ‘Don’t say’, ‘I wouldn’t say no’ , and ‘tells you’.

When to use Tell?

Tell is sometimes used interchangeably with say. It is important to note that sometimes similar words can have different meanings and specific contexts and sentence structures.

Say can be used as a noun or verb and the most common forms are saying, counting, and counting. We always “say something to someone.” This is how the sentence structure should go.


  1. As an informative verb: communicate news, statements, information to someone. For example, I told you the minutes of the meeting.
  2. With Object and Clause: For example, she told me that you would come.
  3. With direct speech and clause: Example, “Go away,” I said.
  4. With two objects: for example, everyone should be told the truth.
  5. Order, advise or instruct someone: for example, I tell you, exercise can get you in shape.
  6. When there is no objection: Reveal private and confidential information. For example, “I promise, I won’t tell.”

With clause: Say something with emphasis and certainty. For example, I can tell you that they are hiding something.

Noun: An action in poker to deceive an attempted treason.

It is also used with certain phrases such as, “as far as one can say,” “I can tell you,” “tell me how it is,” “tell me,” and “I told you.”

Main differences between say and tell

  • saying means saying something, perhaps an opinion or recommendation, while telling means communicating some information or instructions to someone.
  • Say can be used as a verb, as a noun, or as an exclamation, while Tell can only be used as a verb and noun (rarely).
  • A sentence with Say may or may not mention the object, whereas it is often necessary and crucial to mention the object in sentences involving Tell.
  • The sentence structure for Say would be “Say something” or “Say something to someone”, while the sentence structure for Tell would be “Tell someone something.” ‘To’ is used strictly with objects in the first case, while ‘To’ is not used strictly in the second.
  • Say is used to express opinions and suggestions, while Tell is used to convey instructions, commands, and advice.

Final Thought

Understanding the concepts and contexts of similar words in English is important to achieving English proficiency and passing many exams. The most frequently asked questions in competitive exams are questions related to sentence syntax and structure, to check whether a candidate’s understanding is detailed.

Say is used to express opinions and recommendations on a particular topic. While using say, we don’t need to mention the object and therefore the sentence structure can be ‘say something’ or ‘say something to someone’.

Tell is used to communicate facts, information, instructions, orders or advice. Often the participation of an object is necessary and crucial, and therefore the sentence structure is “tell someone something.”

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