You caught your child sneaking some cake from the fridge.

I asked some native speakers if "I will report you to your mom" is natural, but they told me they ofte say "I am telling on you" instead.

But that sentence is not completed because it needs a addressee like "to your mom" or "to your teacher".

I am not sure if "I am telling on you to your mom" is idiomatic but according to my research, it seems that people will say "I am telling your mom" instead.

Is "I am telling on you to your mom" idiomatic?

  • 1
    I would have thought "I'll tell on you" or "I'm going to tell on you to Mom" would be more natural. Nov 3, 2020 at 9:29
  • 1
    I'll tell on you! is a childish construction. Children aren't so good at "complex" sentences, so they wouldn't normally extend that utterance with an adverbial clause to specify which authority they were going to report the wrongdoing to. Consequently, we as adults (who wouldn't normally use such childish words except facetiously) would think it's a bit "odd" to hear I'll tell on you to Mummy! - and even more odd to hear the child "creatively" adjust the syntax to I'll tell Mummy on you! Nov 3, 2020 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


"I am telling on you to your mom" sounds wrong to me. It sounds too formal in a situation that is always informal. In a formal setting such as work, you would use something like "I will(/am going to) report you to..."

You can say "I'm telling on you" or just "I'm telling" if you mean that you will tell any person of importance that will care. The focus here is that you will tell someone but it doesn't really matter who. Could be a parent or a teacher or whoever does the disciplining in the current scenario.

If you want to specify the eprson you will tell, the most common phrase I have heard is "I'm telling X on you".

E.g. "I'm telling(/will tell) dad on you", "I'm telling your mom on you" or "I'm telling the teacher on you".

The strange thing about this sentence is that the sentence doesn't seem grammatical to read back. The sentence is used in very informal and colloquial langauage and often by children. So it seems weird as a sentence but these are the most common ways to say it.

  • This is from Dict: "Ouch, that hurt! I'm telling Mom on you!" idioms.thefreedictionary.com/tell+on+you
    – Tom
    Nov 3, 2020 at 13:17
  • Not a good example. Children aren't that good at "slick syntax", so even though that's how we would transitively identify the authority (Mom, here) as competent adult speakers, we wouldn't do so anyway because we've already outgrown the basic construction before learning how to extend the syntax. Nov 3, 2020 at 13:56

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