Language tip of the week: say

Posted by on November 08, 2012

In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are based on areas of English (e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc) which learners often find difficult. Here is some advice about  the patterns that can follow the verb say:

Unlike the verb tell, the verb say is never used with a personal object. If you want to refer to a personal object after say, use the preposition to:

✗ Perhaps people misunderstand what I want to say them in English.
✓ Perhaps people misunderstand what I want to say to them in English.
✗ He wanted to be examined by a civilian doctor after an army doctor had said him that it was serious.
✓ He wanted to be examined by a civilian doctor after an army doctor had said to him that it was serious.

The object of the verb say is usually direct speech or a that-clause which reports what someone has said:

‘That’s not true!’ she said, but her voice betrayed her.
Climate experts say that by 2100 rainfall levels in some areas may rise to five times what they are today.

Don’t use tell in structures like this:

✗ He told that the Japanese representatives tend to be less confident about speaking English.
✓ He said that the Japanese representatives tend to be less confident about speaking English.

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Comments (1)
  • i really like everything that is related with english grammar.

    Posted by mary sparrow on 14th November, 2012
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