difference between told and said

The Difference Between Told and Said


When it comes to writing dialogue, it’s important to choose the right verbs to convey meaning. Two commonly used verbs in dialogue are “told” and “said.” Although these words may seem interchangeable, there are actually significant differences between them.

Usage of Told

“Told” is generally used to convey a specific action. It implies that someone is imparting information to someone else, either through speaking or writing. For example, “I told him the meeting was at two o’clock.” In this sentence, the speaker is giving information to someone else.

Another usage of “told” is when it is used with an indirect object. For example, “I told her my secret.” In this sentence, the speaker is giving information to someone else, and the information being conveyed is personal or confidential.

Usage of Said

“Said” is a more general verb that is used to indicate dialogue. It implies that someone is speaking or writing, but does not necessarily convey specific information or action. For example, “He said he liked the movie.” In this sentence, the speaker is referring to a statement made by someone else, but not necessarily providing any additional information.

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Another usage of “said” is when it is used with a direct quote. For example, “She said, ‘I’m going to the store.'” In this sentence, the speaker is indicating that someone else made a specific statement, and is providing the exact words spoken.

When to Use Told and Said

When deciding between “told” and “said,” consider the specific context of the dialogue. If there is a specific action or information being conveyed, use “told.” If the focus is on the dialogue itself, use “said.”

In general, “said” is a more neutral verb, while “told” implies a particular action or purpose. However, both verbs can be used interchangeably in certain contexts, and ultimately the choice depends on the desired tone and emphasis of the sentence.


While both “told” and “said” are commonly used in dialogue, they convey different nuances and should be chosen carefully. It’s important to consider the context of the sentence and the desired meaning before choosing between these two verbs. By doing so, writers can create more effective and impactful dialogue in their writing.

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Table difference between told and said

Told Said
Meaning To inform or instruct someone about something, usually in a direct manner To express something in words, often in a casual or indirect manner
Usage Used more often in formal or instructional contexts Used more often in casual or conversational contexts
Object Told always requires an object (e.g. “I told him the truth”) Said can be used with or without an object (e.g. “I said it” or “I said to him…”)
Tense Told is the past tense of tell Said is the past tense of say
Examples “She told me to be careful.” “He said he was going to the store.”