Say vs Tell – What’s the difference?

We have different elements in English grammar that help us form unique sentences. Among them, the most important and common ones are the verbs. And the words we cover today, say and tell, are irregular verbs that help us convey our complete thought.

Say and tell are words that have quite a similar meaning. They are used when someone provides information about something to another person. However, they are not the same word. While they can have a similar meaning, the emphasis is different from one another.

Say vs Tell - What's the difference?

Say vs Tell


Say is a verb that refers to expressing information in words. When we use, say, the emphasis is always on the information. That means it focuses or emphasizes more on the words that someone said. And the past tense of say is said.

For example:

  • He said he would come late tonight.
  • They said something bad about the party.
  • I think she said a slang word to the worker by mistake.


On the other hand, tell is a verb that basically means to communicate information in words. When we use tell, the emphasis is more on the listener. That means we say something, but we tell someone something. The past tense of tell is told.

For example:

  • She told her sister about the school accident.
  • Mary told Kim that she was listening to all the gossip in the class.
  • Please tell John about the audition process.

So, that’s the basic difference between say and tell. While they have the same meaning, both are used differently.

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