say or tell

When do we use say and tell?

Word Explanation Example
say to say something (say is followed immediately by a noun clause) Andrew said that Max was right.
If you want to put a personal object after say, use the word to. He said to his father that Max was right.
tell to tell someone something (tell is followed by an object noun or pronoun) Can you tell me the way to the station, please?


  • In formal situations, the verb must be formed in the past tense. Andrew told me that he was right.
  • Informal it is ok to say: Andrew told me that he is right.

Look at the following examples:

  • Some might say that he was right. (some people believe)
  • It is said to bring good luck. (in the sense of ›always‹)
  • No one goes home without my say-so. (used as a statement)
  • Let me have my say. (say is used as a noun)