'Tell' includes the idea of giving information. The person you tell didn't know it before. So it's not appropriate for greetings and the like:
She said to him, 'It's a nice day today.' [she was just making friendly conversation]
She told him, 'It's a nice day today.' [perhaps was he stuck indoors and couldn't see the sky]

As far as I understood from the link above:
"say goodbye (to somebody)" is correct,
"tell somebody goodbye" is incorrect.

But here is a song:
Listen to Your Heart (a song by Roxette):

Listen to your heart when he's calling for you
Listen to your heart, there's nothing else you can do
I don't know where you're going and I don't know why
But listen to your heart before you tell him goodbye

How to explain here the presence of the incorrect phrase "tell him goodbye"?

  • 2
    Where on the Internet did you see that "tell somebody goodbye" is incorrect? Please give a link.
    – gotube
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 7:03
  • @gotube Thanks for helping me make my question more understandable. I've edited it.
    – Loviii
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 7:57
  • 1
    "Tell someone goodbye" is an informal expression meaning 'finish a romantic relationship with someone". Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 8:02
  • 2
    You're right that "tell" has a subtle meaning of giving new information. So "telling someone goodbye" can imply that you are giving them information that you are leaving. So "said goodbye" just means saying the words, while "told him goodbye" would mean that the listener is being informed that the speaker is leaving
    – John
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 12:23
  • 1
    @John - 'tell someone goodbye' could equally mean that the speaker requires the listener to leave. Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


"Imparting information" isn't the only use of 'tell'. We use 'tell' for giving orders, eg "tell them to go". We also use it to instruct someone to relay a message, eg "tell them I said hi".

As well as being a pleasant remark upon departure, 'goodbye' can also be used to declare the termination of a conversation or the permanent end of a relationship, which would seem to be the meaning in your lyrics.

It isn't uncommon to say "tell them goodbye" as this ngram shows. I've included some other similar constructions in it to show how common it is in comparison.

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