Form & meaning
Direct and indirect speech
- Say and tell are used in both direct and indirect speech.
- Direct speech: I said “I’m hungry.” / I told him “I’m hungry.”
- Indirect speech: I said that I was hungry / I told him that I was hungry.
- Say or tell cannot be used with indirect questions.
- Jim told/said me if I wanted to play football – incorrect
- Jim asked (me) if I wanted to play football – correct
- With tell, we say who is told.
- He told me that he liked playing tennis – correct
- He said me that he liked playing tennis – incorrect
- He told that he liked playing tennis – incorrect
- With say, if we want to use a personal object, to is used.
- He said to them that he would be late.
- With other objects, tell is not normally used.
- He said a strange thing – correct
- He told a strange thing – unusual
- Tell + object + infinitive is used to give orders and instructions.
- I told my son to stop shouting.
- She told me to shut up.
Related grammar points