We use said+to+object, but I don't know that we can use told+to+object or not. For example

She told to me be careful.

Is it correct or not?

  • Nope. Told does not license to in the active voice. In the passive, though: The story was told to me.
    – deadrat
    Aug 26, 2016 at 7:37

1 Answer 1



She said "Be careful" [to me]. / She said to me "Be careful."

employs 'say' as a typical quotative verb. The prepositional phrase 'to X' is available.

While 'tell' is also used as a quotative verb

People always told me, "Be careful of what you do."

the to-phrase is not available.

Note that the situation is different when 'tell' is used as a report verb with a (syntactic) direct object referring to the message instead:

I will tell the news to them.

And note the look-alike usage with a syntactic direct object referring to the addressee, and non-prepositional 'to':

I told them to go.

See, for instance, BBC World Service_Learning English Grammar.

  • 1
    The main difference between say and tell is that say requires a direct object but tell requires an indirect object. Say that and Tell me are both grammatical sentences, but *Say (to) me and *Tell that are not. Aug 26, 2016 at 15:15
  • 1
    @JohnLawler Except when tell means ‘relate’, as in “The book tells the story of a young boy who saved the world with a yo-yo and a pair of chopsticks”. (Incidentally, despite what Google Play says, I'm almost positive there shouldn't be an ‘of’ in that excerpt.) Aug 26, 2016 at 20:35

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