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Cafetalk Tutor's Column

Tutor Dani L. 's Column

Student Menu: "Say, Tell, Speak, or Talk?" Part 1

Dec 18, 2014 | 4 Comments

Hi Café Addicts

I'm starting a new edition on my Tutor's Column called "Student Menu." In these posts, I will address questions that some of my students have asked. Today, I will try to clear things up on the usages of say and tell.


  • Used with direct and indirect speech: Dani said, "It's cold" (direct). / Dani said that it was cold (indirect).
  • Often used without a personal object: Rhys said that he loves teaching. (We don't know who he said it to - no personal object)
  • If we want to put a personal object after say, we use to: What did René Zellwegger say to you when you met her?
  • Used with direct and indirect speech: René told me that she was travelling alone. (After tell, we usually say who is told. Tell someone something)
  • Only used to instruct or inform: I told a few of my students about my interesting engagement story (inform). / I also told them how to remember the vocabulary words from my story (instruct). 
  • Tell is used to tell someone to do something: When I was young, my sister always told me to get her snacks or drinks (true story). 
  • Tell is not used before objects like a word, a name, a sentence or a phrase: "Kathy said a naughty word," not "Kathy told a naughty word."
  • We usually do not use it after tell to refer to a fact:  "I'll tell you tomorrow," not "I'll tell it to you tomorrow."
  • Tell someone again (repeat): "I don't want to tell you again to get your feet out of your mouth," said the angry mother. 
That's it for part one, everyone! I hope that helped. Stay tuned for part two - I will explain speak and talk. Have a lovely weekend!


Addict (noun) - A person who likes or enjoys something very much and spends a large amount of time doing it. 

Edition (noun)- Something presented as one in a series.

Clear things up (expression used as verb) - To explain clearly. 

Stay tuned (imperative clause) - Wait for. 

- Dani L. <3

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