Meaning of “tell” in the English Dictionary

"tell" in English

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uk /tel/ us /tel/ told, told

tell verb (SPEAK)

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 how to get to the library?
[ + 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 (= I am extremely grateful).
tell a lie/lies

to say something/things that are not true:

She's always telling lies.
tell it like it is informal

to tell the facts without hiding anything

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
tell the truth

to speak honestly:

How do you know she's telling the truth?
to tell (you) the truth

to be honest:

To tell (you) the truth, I didn't understand a word of what he was saying.

More examples

tell verb (KNOW)

B2 [ I or T ] to know, recognize, or be certain:

"He's Dutch." "How can you tell?"
[ + (that) ] I could tell (that) you were unhappy.

B2 [ T ] If something tells you something, it gives you information:

What does the survey tell us about the lives of teenagers?
tell the difference

C1 to notice a difference in quality between two things:

This coffee is about half the price of that one and yet you really can't tell the difference.
tell sb's fortune also tell fortunes

to say what will happen in someone's future:

At the fair, there was a lady who told your fortune.
tell the time UK US tell time

to be able to understand a clock:

My daughter has just learned to tell the time.
there is no telling

there is no way of knowing:

There is no telling what the future will hold for them.
you never can tell B2 also you can never tell

said to mean that you can never know or be certain:

Who knows what will happen to Peter and me in the future - you can never tell.

More examples

tell verb (HAVE AN EFFECT)

[ I ] to have an effect:

She's been under a lot of stress recently and it's starting to tell.

(Definition of “tell” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"tell" in American English

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us /tel/ past tense and past participle told /toʊld/

tell verb (SAY)

[ I/T ] to say something to someone, esp. to give instructions or information; report:

[ T ] Can you tell me how to get to the bus station?
[ I ] She told about her travels overseas.

tell verb (SHOW)

[ T ] to show or give information in ways other than talking:

This light tells you when the battery is low.

tell verb (ORDER)

[ T ] to order someone to do something:

I told you to be home by eleven.

tell verb (KNOW)

[ I/T ] to know or recognize:

[ I ] It’s hard to tell which is better.
[ T ] It’s easy to tell a robin by its red breast.
[ + (that) clause ] I could tell that you were unhappy.
[ T ] This one is supposed to be better, but how can you tell the difference?

(Definition of “tell” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

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