Say - Use say when the words are the important part.

Tell - Use tell when the person being told is the important part.



  • I told your teacher you could go on the field trip.
  • I said, "Don't do that!"
  • I said I was going, but then I told my friend I wasn't.  I'll surprise her  when I actually show up.


Common mistake:

  • I said her...
    • Said doesn't take an indirect object. 
    • Possible: I said no to her.
    • Better: I told her no.


Practice: Fill in the blanks with say/said or tell/told.

  1. He ____________ the class about his exciting adventure.
  2. She asked how he knew the right answer, and he ____________ he had studied a lot.
  3. He ____________ them he was glad he had gone.
  4. _____________ that again! I want to write it down.
  5. What did you ____________? I couldn't hear you.
  6. She _______________ I would be offered the job, but first she needed to ___________ the human resources office.
  7. I _____________ you I would be home by 7:00. 



Answers: 1) told, 2) said, 3) told, 4) Say, 5) say, 6) said, tell, 7) told