Is it possible to use the word "tell" in the provided context? If not, please, give your reason(s).

She took part in school debates as the leader of the high school debate team, and consistently impressed her competitors with her analytical thinking. “Never argue with Jessica,” her teachers would say/tell. So she chose to major in politics, knowing that she could never stray far from a good dispute.

1 Answer 1


This sense of 'tell' means 'communicate something to someone'. It requires an object, the person who is being spoken to.

We can't use it as a one-to-one replacement for 'say/said'.

E.g., Jessica's teachers told her parents: 'Never argue with Jessica'.

  • Thank you for your reply. Can one treat the noun 'competitors' in the previous sentence as the implied object in this context? Apr 5, 2023 at 8:56
  • The object of tell cannot normally be omitted. The only counter-example I can think of is the colloquial imperative "Do tell!" which I would regard as an idiom.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 5, 2023 at 9:24
  • you could use 'Pray tell' as well
    – thelawnet
    Apr 5, 2023 at 14:54

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