Say/ Tell: Can you ‘tell’ the difference?

Say and Tell - what is the difference? CEF A2/B1

Say or Tell - What is the difference?

So is there a rule? What is the difference between these two words?

We use 'say' for something and 'tell' for someone.

Example: He said he would be late. He told me he would be late.

Easy - yes?  Well no -  not if you're a German speaker.

The problem is that 'erzählen' is used mainly in the sense of telling a story, or talking about past experiences. The rest of the time German uses 'sagen' for both the English verbs 'say' and 'tell'. So in German my example above would be:

Er sagte, dass er spät sein würde. Er sagte mir, dass er spät sein würde.

This is why, of course, there is a tendency for German learners English to use 'say' when a native speaker would use 'tell'.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that as usual there are a lot of exceptions to the English rule; expressions where we should use 'say', but we use 'tell'. I'm telling the truth here  (Sorry!) If you're interested in a comprehensive list of these exceptions in picture form click this link here.  As usual, however, most of us  have to rely on our 'Bauchgefühl'. How is yours?  Try the test and see.

A breath of fresh air for €115?

Level: CEF A2.

A family in Dorset, England have come up with this business idea. Have a look at the video and the vocabulary explanation below and try the exercise.


There are some good expressions and words in this video:

  • A ‘treat’ is something good and special.
  • If you ‘harvest’ something you take something from nature for food.
  • A ‘batch’ is a group of products,  produced and often sold at the same time.
  • An ‘artisan’ is a skilled worker. So if something is artisan – it is special.
  • If you ‘pick up‘ something, you lift it and move it to another place.
  • A ‘jar’ is something made of glass that you can put something into.
  • An ‘entrepreneur’ is a businesman/woman.
  • If something is ‘worth it’, it means you are happy with what you have paid for.
  • If something is a ‘rip-off’, it means you are not happy because you think you have paid too much.
  • If you ‘claim’ something, it means you say something which you want other people to believe.

If you’d like to practise these words, try  this vocabulary exercise by clicking here

By the way – this is not a hoax (Scherz). You can find out more about this ‘business’ here: