Told or said?

Sometimes, we use the word, ‘said’ and sometimes ‘told’.

“My mother told me to eat up the pudding.”

Can you also say, “My mother said me to eat up the pudding?”

Doesn’t sound quite right, does it?

So when do we use ‘said’ and when ‘told’?

When the sentence mentions who the listener is, we use the word, ‘told.’ In the sentence we just read, we know who the listener is. The listener is ‘me.’

My mother told my brother, “You can’t have any more pudding.”

Here the listener is ‘my brother,’ So you can’t say, “My mother said my brother…”

The teacher told Kumar, “Stop looking out of the window.”

Here the listener is Kumar. So ‘told’ is used.

On the other hand

Then, when do we use ‘said’? When the sentence does not mention who the listener is.

The rat said, “Oh, dear! The cat is out of the bag.”

This sentence does not tell us who the rat is talking to. We only know that the rat has said something.

So we use ‘said’, and not ‘told’.

The speaker said, “Please don’t sleep.”

Here again, the sentence does not mention who the listener or listeners are. So we go with ‘said.’ If the listener is included in the sentence, then it would read something like this: The speaker told his audience, “Please don’t sleep.”

But if you really want to use the word ‘said’ when the name of the listener is included in the sentence, you can say, ‘said to’. Then the sentence would read: The speaker said to his audience, “Please don’t sleep”.

Like most rules, this one too has exceptions. When talking about jokes, lies, the truth and stories, ‘told’ is used even though the listeners are not mentioned:

She told jokes.

He told a lie.

He told the truth.

She told a story.

Thankfully, not too many exceptions!

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2020 11:05:56 AM |

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