Tell me please of I have to use them in the following context.

I learned a few word, but I can't tell you (them) off the top of my head.

Does the sentence sound more natural without it?

  • You can use tell intransitively (with no explicitly specified object) where the intended sense is divulge [a secret] (as in I know you did something bad, but I won't tell). or perceive, know, be aware of (as in It's no use denying it. I can tell it was you who did it). But in your context, the sense is more list, enumerate, name [multiple items], where it's not idiomatic to omit the subject (them, here). Jan 24, 2020 at 21:56

1 Answer 1


Tell works like give, so it can have two objects

  • an indirect object, which is the person you are telling


  • a direct object, which is the thing you are telling the person.

Give me(indirect object) the schedule(direct object).

Tell me(indirect object) the schedule(direct object).

If you do not mention what you're telling, then you are emphasizing the person you're telling instead of what you are telling.

... but I can't tell you them (but I can tell you other things).

... but I can't tell you (but I can tell other people something).

  • This answer is not correct. It's the other way round. I've suggested an edit. Mar 8, 2020 at 14:59
  • I always get direct and indirect mixed up. Thanks.
    – LawrenceC
    Mar 9, 2020 at 15:20

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