Difference in Say and tell ? important for ssc and bank exams

Say or Tell?
Say and tell have similar meanings. They both mean to communicate verbally with someone. But we often use them differently.
For bank exams, SSC tier-1 and tier-2 Bank po and any other English test this is famous question. We often see so many questions based on it.
In options we see similar options. Only difference in say or tell or forms of it. SSC tier-2 contained 8-9 questions based on it.
To support the fact see the Sample ssc tier-2 questions form ssc cgl-12. There was 8-9 questions from same topic. So see the differnce. It is important.


So I would like to explain the difference in these two words.
The simple way to think of say and tell is:
• You say something
• You tell someone something

You say somethingYou tell someone something
Ram said that he was tired.Ram told Jane that he was tired.
Vinay says you have a new job.Vinay tells me you have a new job.
Lara said: “I love you.”Lara told John that she loved him.


Simplest way to understand it is We use ‘say ‘ when massage was communicated directly.

We use ‘tell’ when massage can be communicated in any way from later, email or some other ways person told the massage to other person

Lara told John that she loved him. She would have communicated him this to any means.

Other way to use the words in direct and indirect sentences. Always Remember told can replace said but said have very specific meaning. It can be used only when some said someone directly.

Direct speech
We can use say with direct speech. We use tell only with direct speech that is an instruction or information:

  • Amanda said, “Hello John. How are you?”
  • “That’s great'” she said.
  • He told her: “Open the door quietly.”
  • She told me, “I have never been to England.”

We can use say with direct questions, but we cannot use tell:

  • She said: “Do you love me?”
  • The policeman said to the prisoner, “Where were you at 8pm?”

Reported speech
We can use say and tell to talk about reported information:

  • She said that it was raining.
  • She told me that she would call at 2pm.

We cannot use say or tell to talk about reported questions. We must use ask (or a similar verb):

  • She asked if I had ever been there.
  • They asked what I wanted to eat.
  • She asked where he lived.
  • He asked if she wanted to go home.

Orders, advice
We use tell + object + infinitive for orders or advice:

  • She told him to sit down.
  • They told me not to wait.
  • Tell Neil to have a holiday and forget her.

Here are a few fixed phrases with tell. We cannot use say with these phrases:

  • tell (someone) a story
  • tell (someone) a lie
  • tell (someone) the truth
  • tell the future (= to know what the future will bring)
  • tell the time (= know how to read a clock)

Right and wrong
Read these examples of correct and incorrect usage:

We cannot…These are NOT possible…These are possible…
say someone to do somethingTara said Jo to go away.Tara told Jo to go away.
say someone somethingPanita said me that she was hungry.Panita told me that she was hungry.
tell somethingHe told that he likes coffee.He said that he likes coffee.
tell to someoneTookta told to me that she was coming.Tookta told me that she was coming.
Tookta said to me that she was coming.
say a lieSiriluck always says lies.Siriluck always tells lies.
tell somebody “direct speech”
(except instructions and information)
Ram told Nok: “Let’s turn on the TV.”Ram said to Nok: “Let’s turn on the TV.”
(Ram told Nok, “Turn on the TV.”)
(Ram told Nok: “I was born in 1985.”)
say or tell a reported questionShe said if I wanted to come.She asked if I wanted to come.
Tookta told what I wanted to do.Took asked what I wanted to do


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