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Hi everybody, my name is Alisha.
Welcome back to EnglishClass101.com's Youtube channel. Today, I'm going to talk about “say,”
“tell,” and “speak.”
I'm going to talk about the differences between when we use these and also give some examples
of how to use them as well.
So let's go!
Okay, the first one I want to talk about is “say.”
So we use “say” when we want to have a very neutral feel to what we're talking about.
We use “say” when we report speech, we're reporting information, reporting something
we heard, reporting something someone else said to us.
So as I just use the past tense of “say” is said; please be careful it is not say-ed,
it should be “said,” the spelling changes, said.
He said, she said, we said, they said.
Okay, so when we want to report speech we can use the past tense like I've just done,
for example, he said dinner was delicious.
This is a past tense statement, so maybe previously before the conversation someone, he said this
statement, dinner was delicious, think of this like a quote, dinner was delicious, he
said dinner was delicious.
Another example, you said you were tired.
You said you were tired.
So again, before the conversation, the other person said he or she was tired, but here
to report, you said you were tired, and we use the past tense of “say” - “said”
to do that.
Okay, one more with the present tense then, remember we use the present tense when we're
talking about general facts or things which are always true regular actions.
So in this case, I've used present tense, I said I never say mean things.
So here I have present tense, this is a general fact in this case, I never say mean things.
So again, a very neutral way of talking about verbal communication.
Okay, so that's how we use “say.”
An introduction to how we use “say.”
Then let's talk about how to use “tell.”
We use “tell” a little bit differently from the way that we use “say.”
So we use “tell” when we want to show kind of a one-way nuance, there's sort of
one-way communication happening.
So by that I mean that someone is passing new information or giving new information
to another person, something I do not already know, I'm having someone tell me; someone
is going to tell me new information.
So we use this in past tense a lot, the past tense of “tell” is told.
He told me, she told me, they told me; this gives us the nuance of new information, something
I'm learning, something I am hearing for the first time.
I can use “tell,” or, “told” in past tense, also.
One point about “to tell,” the object, in many cases, is a person, so by that I mean
after the verb “tell” the item coming after it in the sentence there is usually
a person, so the person receiving the information.
So, please tell me, please tell her, please tell him, the person indicated here or the
group of people indicated here after the verb "tell," that's the person or the group of
people receiving the information, learning the information.
Okay, so let's see…
I told you to call me.
Here, I have the past tense, I told you to call me, so “you,” this is the receiver
of the information.
I told you to call me, I asked you to call me here.
Okay, so this is to report, some command, we can use “tell” and “told” to give
I told you to call me, I gave you the new request to call me, in other words.
Okay, one more, a request this time…
Can you tell me where the bathroom is?
So here, “tell me,” so this is a request for information; can you tell me where the
I don't know where the bathroom is, please give me new information, please tell me where
Okay, here we also use present tense, yeah, so when you're making a request, please make
sure to use the present tense.
Can you tell me something?
Why didn't you tell me the party was canceled?
Another question, why didn't you tell me, so you didn't give me new information about
the party, why?
Why didn't you tell me bla bla bla?
We can use this pattern for if you miss information or if someone forgot to tell you something,
if someone forgot to give you information that you needed, you can say why didn't you
tell me bla bla bla?
To make a different sentence, you could say, why didn't you tell her or why didn't you
tell them, why didn't you tell our boss.
Some other examples, a positive sentence could be, why did you tell him?
Why did you tell her?
For example, if someone tells a secret.
So we can use "tell" to give new information, to pass new information along.
Okay, so that's "tell."
So the next verb that I want to talk about today is the verb "speak."
so we use "speak" to mean a conversation, yes.
So "speak" has the nuance of a conversation but it has the nuance of a more formal tone.
we would use "speak" in more formal situations, like a business meeting or a work setting,
for example, or for maybe a more serious conversation.
But we can use "speak" with either "with" or "to."
So I mean, speak with someone and speak to someone.
So the difference between these two is very very small, if you say speak with my boss,
it sounds like you expect a conversation with your boss, speaking with someone, sounds like
there's information passing back and forth between the two of you.
Speak to your boss sounds more like, for example, you're going to say a lot of things, you're
going to give a lot of information and your boss will participate a little bit, but there's
more nuance of giving information than passing information back and forth.
So if you want to make a more conversational nuance, use "with," speak with someone.
If you want it to sound a little more one-sided, a little more one way, use "speak to" someone.
Okay, so we also use speak for languages, like I speak English, I speak French, I speak
Japanese, I don't speak German, I don't speak Thai.
So please use "speak" for languages, as well.
The past tense of speak is "spoke."
Please be careful, it is not speak-ed, please use "spoke," the past tense is spoke.
I spoke English every day when I lived in America, for example.
So please use "spoke" as the past tense here.
Also, the past participle form is spoken.
So we'll see that in a little bit, maybe.
Okay, so some example sentence.
You should speak with or to your boss.
So here you can choose "with," sounds more conversational; "to," sounds a little more
You should speak with your boss.
You should speak to your boss.
Okay, past tense sentence.
I spoke with my manager, I spoke with my manager.
We shared information.
Last, have you spoken to HR?
Have you spoken to HR?
Here's a present perfect tense sentence, I've used "spoken" here.
So that's a nice, maybe a wrap up of a few different verbs that are commonly confused
when talking about speech, let's go to some example sentences.
The first example sentence is... my friend _________ me my cooking was bad.
Okay, my cooking was bad, this is probably new information for a person.
Another hint, we have "me," there's a person here in the object position of the sentence.
So we can guess this should be the verb "tell," however we have this hint, my cooking was
bad, was bad, a past tense, so we should use the past tense form of "tell," "told" here.
Okay, next one.
They _________ I have to work tomorrow.
So here I have to work tomorrow, this is maybe just information, it sounds like somebody
passed some information to me.
So if I want to think of this as like reporting speech, I would use the verb "say" in the
past tense, "said."
So I know this should not be "tell" because there's no object here, I know it should not
be "speak" because there's no "with" and there's no "to" here either, so I know this should
be they said I have to work tomorrow.
Of course, this sentence could be, they told me I have to work tomorrow, it sounds more
like a command, in that case.
Here, they said I have to work tomorrow, it's very neutral and just a simple report of speech.
Okay, next one.
He really needs to _________ with his client.
So here is a big hint word we have the word "with" here, and we also have "client" here,
which shows maybe a business or a work setting, therefore, we can guess the verb should be
He really needs to speak with his client.
Have you _________ your mother the news?
The news, so here, news is a big hint, new information, new information, and we have
a person, a person in the object position, a person is going to receive new information.
So, have you told your mother the news, is the correct sentence here.
So have you told bla bla bla? is actually a really good sentence for you to remember.
Have you told your mom about that?
Have you told your dad about that?
Have you told your dog about your new park?
I don't know.
So anytime you want to pass information or ask a question about information being passed,
please use "tell" to do that, like we've done here, have you told someone.
Okay, let's go to the next one.
We _________ about this at the last meeting.
So again, meeting here is a big hint that it is a work or a more formal situation, we
see that this is "the last meeting," so something that has finished already.
So let's use past tense "spoke."
We spoke about this at the last meeting.
Here, I have introduced something slightly different from this "speak with" or "speak
If you want to mention a topic rather than about a person, we can use "speak about" a
topic, speak about something.
We spoke about this at the last meeting.
We can use speak to introduce a topic, as well.
So please note that this is an option.
Okay, let's go to the next one.
You always _______ nice things.
So "always" here, I have a word which indicates a regular action, something that is always
We talked about an example over here, though I used "never" here, however, the grammar
is still the same, we should still use the same grammar nuance, the same grammar point
So let's use the present tense "say."
You always say nice things.
So someone always says positive things or someone always makes very positive comments,
like, for example, everybody in the comments on these videos, everybody always says very
We can use "always say" to talk about something that a person always says.
Okay, finally, the same thing.
He always _________ the truth.
Okay, now this is tricky.
I've used "always" here, I used "always" in the previous one, as well, but the thing I
want to point out is this the truth at the end of the sentence, there's a set phrase
in English, we don't use "say" we actually use "tell" with the expression "the truth."
He always tells the truth.
So the expressions "tell the truth," and the opposite "tell a lie."
We always use the verb "tell" with this, you might hear I sometimes hear non-native speakers
of English, they "say a lie" or "say the truth," but this is not natural.
Please be sure to use "tell the truth" or "tell a lie"; we always use "tell" in these
cases, so please be careful of that.
Okay, but we've talked about a lot of different ways to use these three verbs, and I hope
that it's a little bit more clear now when to use them, especially "say" and "tell,"
many people have a little bit of confusion between these two.
But "speak" is also quite useful as well.
Okay, so I hope that was useful for you.
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