difference between said and told

Difference Between Said and Told – Which One to Use When

When you are communicating with someone through various means, particularly in writing, you need to make sure your message is conveyed clearly. The use of the correct words is critical to achieving that purpose. Two words that are often used interchangeably in conversation but have distinct meanings in writing are “said” and “told.” In this article, we will explore the difference between said and told and when to use each one.

What is Said?

“Said” is the past tense of “say.” It is one of the most commonly used verbs when it comes to reporting speech or dialogue. When you use “said,” you are simply stating the exact words spoken by the speaker. For instance, “Ethan said, ‘I am going to the park.'” Here, we see the speaker’s exact words and who said them. “Said” can be used in an indirect speech, too. An example would be “Lily said she was going to visit her friend after work.”

What is Told?

“Told” is the past tense of “tell.” Unlike “said,” “told” is used when the speaker provides more information than simply the words spoken. When you use “told,” you are indicating what the message was and to whom it was directed. For example, “Mom told me to be home by 10 pm tonight.” Here, we see the message conveyed by the speaker and who it is directed to. “Told” can be used in an indirect speech, too. An example would be “David told me he would call me later.”

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When to Use Said vs. Told

It is essential to use the right word to avoid confusion and get your message across to your audience. Generally speaking, “said” is used to indicate the exact words a person spoke. “Told” is used to indicate the message or instruction conveyed by the speaker.

For example, “The teacher said, ‘Your homework is due tomorrow.'” Here, we see the teacher’s exact words being reported. But, if we say “The teacher told the students to submit their homework by tomorrow,” we understand that the teacher gave an instruction to the students, not the words he/she used.

In summary, “said” is more appropriate when reporting direct speech, while “told” is more apt when you are conveying a message or instructing someone. Knowing the difference between these two words will help you communicate more effectively and make your writing more precise.


In conclusion, “said” and “told” may seem similar, but their meanings are different. “Said” refers to the exact words spoken by the speaker, whereas “told” refers to the message or instruction conveyed by the speaker. Proper usage of these two words makes your writing more accurate and effective. Always remember to use “said” when you want to report exact words spoken by someone, while “told” is used when conveying a message or instruction by the speaker.

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Table difference between said and told

Said Told
Generally refers to something that has been expressed verbally Refers to communication of information, instruction or direction from one person to another
Can be used as a reporting verb i.e. he said/she said Used as an action verb i.e. he told me/she told her
Can be used to express the speaker’s opinion or feelings Usually used to inform, instruct or direct
Does not necessarily involve a listener who is doing anything in response The listener is expected to respond, act or do something based on the information given
Can be used in reported speech to represent the original speaker’s exact words Can be used in direct speech to communicate directly to the listener