Difference between “say” and “tell” or “said ” and “told”.

A common error among students learning English is to use say and tell, or said and told in exactly the same way.

Both these verbs are used to report someone’s words, but they are used differently.

Here’s a simple explanation to help you remember the difference.

When you use tell, include who you tell (the listener) immediately after tell.

CORRECT: Everyday, I tell him that I love him.
INCORRECT: Everyday, I tell that I love him.

When you use say, do not include the listener immediately after say.

CORRECT: Everyday, I say that I love him.
INCORRECT: Everyday, I say him that I love him.

The same rules apply for any tense. With say and tell, the PAST TENSE is often used.

When you use told, include who you told (i.e., the listener) immediately after told.

CORRECT: He told me that he wanted to go.
INCORRECT: He told that he wanted to go.

When you use said, do not include the listener immediately after said.

CORRECT: He said that he wanted to go.
INCORRECT: He said me that he wanted to go.

Many English learners and good grammarians call ‘tell’ as transitive verb and ‘say’ as intransitive verb.