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English definition of “tell”


verb (SPEAK)    /tel/ (told, told)
A1 [T] to say something to someone, often giving them information or instructions: Tell me about your holiday then. [+ two objects] Can you tell me the way to the station? [+ obj + (that) ] Did you tell anyone (that) you were coming to see me? [+ obj + speech ] "I'm leaving you," she told him. [+ obj + to infinitive ] I told her to go home.formal He told us of his extraordinary childhood. I can't tell you how grateful I am for your help.Announcing, informing and stating tell a lie/lies to say something/things that are not true: She's always telling lies.Lies, lying and hypocrisyDishonest people tell it like it is informal to tell the facts without hiding anythingBlunt and direct in speech and behaviourNot saying muchNot being friendly tell tales disapproving If someone, usually a child, tells tales, they tell someone such as a teacher about something bad that someone else has done: Your classmates won't trust you if you're always telling tales, Alvin. → See also telltaleRevealing secrets and becoming known tell the truth to speak honestly: How do you know she's telling the truth?Honesty, openness and sincerity to tell (you) the truth to be honest: To tell (you) the truth, I didn't understand a word of what he was saying.Honesty, openness and sincerity telltaleGrammar:Say or tell?Say and tell are irregular verbs. The past simple of say is said, the past simple of tell is told:See moreGrammar:Say and tell with objectsBoth say and tell take a direct object. The object is most commonly the reported clause (the report of what someone said).See moreGrammar:Tell + indirect object + to-infinitiveWe use tell with an indirect object and a to-infinitive to report a command or an instruction. We don’t normally use say in this way:See more
(Definition of tell verb (SPEAK) from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
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