A few weeks ago, one of my friend and I talked about tomorrow's traveling course.
I said, "my guidebook said a city walking course."

But books can't say anything. So I thought "said" was a wrong expression.
What should I have said? Which verb do you use when you refer information from a book?
Or just I could have said "There is a city walking course in my guidebook."?
If you know any alternative expression in the situation please let me know.

  • 1
    said is fine. You may be surprised to learn that billboard signs, Google, and nutrition labels can also "say" things in English. Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 15:00

3 Answers 3


Using "the book said..." is understood to be figurative, and is quite common. We know the book isn't talking.

The book says that the church was built in 1089

You can't say "The book writes..." because it is not the book that is writing, it is the author. So, if the book has a named author you can, as an alternative say:

In his guidebook, Jack Smith wrote about a city walking course.

That is more formal, and more appropriate to written English.

You can use a variety of verbs with the book as subject:

The guidebook (describes/ explains/ contains) a city walking course.

And for the most formal, when the author isn't known, one may use the passive voice:

It is written in the Book of Genesis that when God's Spirit hovered over the water at the beginning of time, all was darkness."


Essentially any source and format can be used with "said", at least in natural speech, oddly enough.

My guidebook said there was a city walking course.

The commercial said art supplies were 50% off.

Works fine with images too:

enter image description here

What does it say on the painting? — Oh, that's just the artist's signature.

enter image description here

The label says you can wash it in the machine, in cold water.


My guidebook said a city walking course.

The verb say can mean

6 (of something that is written or can be seen) to give particular information or instructions

according to this dictionary.

But I wouldn't use said in your example, because it's followed by a noun phrase a city walking course, which in this particular sentence somehow feels awkward or even ungrammatical.

The dictionary does say that the verb say can be followed by a noun phrase

say something The clock said three o'clock.

I wouldn't think, however, this guarantees that the same verb can be freely followed by any noun phrase in other contexts as in your own example.

I would use other verbs such as mention or talk or show instead, and I would prefer the present tense unless there's a clear reason to use the past tense:

My guidebook mentions a city walking course.

My guidebook talks about a city walking course.

My guidebook shows a city walking course.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .