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Troubleshooting say tell

Correct Form Common Errors
He said he could not come to the party.
He told me he could not come to the party.
He  told  he could not come to the party.
Tell is normally followed by a personal direct object (here = me) and is not often used for direct speech. See next item.
He said, 'I cannot come to the party.' He  told  me, 'I cannot come to the party.'
Say is more often used to introduce direct speech (when the writer wishes to indicate the exact words used, as in novels).
Tell is not often used to introduce direct speech, but it can be used, for example, to introduce a command or instructions.
There were a lot of people in the street so I told my daughter: 'Stay near me. You won't get lost that way.'
It's not true. You're telling lies.
I like it when Bob tells a story. He's a great storyteller.
It's not true. You're saying lies.
I like it when Bob says a story. He's a great storyteller.
We do not use say with certain expressions:
  • tell a joke
  • tell a lie
  • tell a secret
  • tell a story
  • tell the truth

    and in these cases it is not necessary to use a personal direct object.

    The children were too excited to sleep so I told (them) a bedtime story.
It's snowing. I knew it would and I said so.
It's snowing. I knew it would and I told you so.
It's snowing. I knew it would and I said it..
It's snowing. I knew it would and I told you it.
It is better to use so rather than it in these situations. It is certainly more common.

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