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Grammatik auf Englisch - Say und Tell

Schlagwörter: Grammatik auf Englisch, Englisch Grammatik, Englische Grammatik, Englisch Grammar, Gramatik auf Englisch, Englisch Gramatik, Englische Gramatik, Englisch Grammar, Say und Tell

In the English language two verbs are used with very similar meanings, say and tell. Sometimes they are interchangeable, and sometimes only one of them can be used – especially in specific phrases and expressions.

Say is used to talk about pronouncing words or making sounds, giving information or instructions, expressing a thought or opinion, extending greetings and making suggestions.

Can you say “conscientiously”?
Open your mouth wide and say “Aaaah!”
How do you say “please” in German?
She said “goodbye” and left the party.
The doctor says it’s a virus.

Tell has a similar meaning but is used mainly for giving information or instructions. In this way it is always followed by a direct personal object.

Tell me about your childhood.
I told her to calm down.
Did you tell your boss?

Both say and tell can be used in direct and reported speech.

“I’m happy”, she said.
“I’m happy”, she told him.
She said ( that ) she was happy.
She told him ( that ) she was happy.
The personal object of say is always indirect.

Object or no object?
One of the biggest problems is that say cannot be followed by a direct personal object. If a personal object is used, it is always indirect.

What did you say to the policeman?
I don’t know what she said to him, but it certainly worked.
( NOT I don’t know what she said him. )
She said hello to everyone.

Tell, on the other hand, is nearly always followed by a direct personal object. Generally speaking, when giving information or instructions, personal objects are not used with say but are always used with tell.
You say something to somebody, and you tell somebody something.

She said that she was happy.
( NOT She said me that she was happy. )
She told me that she was happy.
( NOT She told that she was happy. )
She said she wanted to see the film.
She told me she wanted to see the film.
“Get in the car”, I said.
“Get in the car”, I told him.

With greetings, exclamations and questions, only say is used.

She said goodbye to everyone and went home.
The children always say “please” and “thank you”.
Remember to say your prayers.
“It’s a lovely day!” she said.
( NOT “It’s a lovely day!” she told him. )
“Would you like a drink?” he said.
( NOT “Would you like a drink?” he told her. )

When reading instructions or articles, say is always used. This is comparable to the use of stehen in German.

What does the recipe say?
It says in the newspaper that the princess is getting married in June.
The sign says London is another 50 miles.
It says on the bottle to take two pills twice a day.

Tell can be used without a personal object in certain expressions, e.g. tell a story, tell a joke, tell the truth, tell a lie, tell tales. It is not possible to use say in these expressions.

A comedian is someone who tells jokes.
Their father always tells them stories before they go to sleep.
I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
If you keep telling tales you won’t have any friends.

( To tell tales means to report true, negative information about one’s peers to a parent or teacher to get them into trouble. )
It is not generally used after tell when referring to facts.

Do you know when this week’s meeting is? I’ll tell you later.
( NOT I’ll tell it you later. )

However, there are some idioms that use tell it:

Tell it to the judge / the marines.
( = I don’t believe you )
Tell it like it is!
( = Speak frankly )

Tell somebody to do something
This construction ( tell + object + infinitive ) is used for giving advice, information and orders. Say cannot be used this way.

She told him to be more careful when driving her car.
I told him not to smoke in the house.
My mother’s always telling me to eat properly.
Tell the men to start work immediately!

Tell can also mean know, recognise, be certain, distinguish or understand, and is used this way in the expressions tell the difference, tell the time and tell somebody’s fortune.

How could you tell he was lying?
His lips moved.
David is eight and he still can’t tell the time.
Can you tell the difference between butter and margarine?
My friend can tell your fortune from tea leaves.

They say and it is said are both used to make general statements that people believe to be true.

They say it’s going to be a very cold winter. ( Informal )
It is said ( that ) Hungarian is not an Indo-European language. ( Formal )

Schlagwörter: Grammatik auf Englisch, Englisch Grammatik, Englische Grammatik, Englisch Grammar, Gramatik auf Englisch, Englisch Gramatik, Englische Gramatik, Englisch Grammar, Say und Tell

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