I think I often hear this structure in commands or requests "do as I say / ask..." or "do as I tell you"

So, "to do as I tell you" is a verb.

I am not sure if I put that verb into a sentence, will it sound natural anymore.

For example, "He did as I told you" or "You hate doing as I tell you".

I don't think "He did as I told you" or "You hate doing as I tell you" are grammatically wrong because I just put the correct verb "to do as I tell you" in a sentence, I didn't change the verb.

But, It seems some people said they are not natural. They said it's better to say "He did what I told him to do" and "You hate doing what I tell you to do".

My question is Why can we say "do as I tell you" but can not "He did as I told you" or "You hate doing as I tell you"?

English is very hard. A phrase, which can be used in a command, might sound awkward in a sentence.

Also, why "Do as I tell you" is correct but "You hate doing as I tell you" is not correct?

See these sentences:

1-"cook dinner"

2-"you hate cooking dinner" / "You don't seem to like cooking dinner"

3-"Do as I tell you"

4-"You hate doing as I tell you" / "You don't seem to like doing as I tell you"

I just put "you hate" or "You don't seem to like" in front of the verb. That's all.

But why the number 2 "you hate cooking dinner" / "You don't seem to like cooking dinner" sounds ok but the number 4 "You hate doing as I tell you" / "You don't seem to like doing as I tell you" doesn't?

That is the main part of this question.

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    Where did you hear or read that you can say 'do as I tell'? Commented Feb 25 at 13:07
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    It's Do as I tell you. In this sense (as in to speak words, to say something), tell is a transitive verb and requires an object. For example: You tell me, I tell you, he tells someone, I tell him, etc.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Feb 25 at 13:15
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    @tom I am focussing on your question. Say is often intranstive (e.g. Do as I say) and requires no object, but in this sense tell is transitive, and requires an object. This is part of the difference between say and tell.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Feb 25 at 15:07
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    The word "hate" is an intense word. You should use it cautiously. In particular I would recommend never using "hate" about a person. And never saying what someone else hates, unless you are reporting what they say. So, I'd be cautious about "You hate...". Are you really sure that their feeling are that strong?
    – James K
    Commented Feb 25 at 15:09
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    @tom with respect - you asked the question, and now you don't seem to like the answer. If you don't want honest answers, then that's not my problem. It's yours. And note: I have already told you why. I am done with this now, so there's no need to post any more comments directed towards me.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Feb 25 at 15:16

2 Answers 2


These are both idiomatic:

You hate doing as I tell you.

You hate doing what I tell you.

There is very little practical difference in meaning. The word as refers to manner, how you want them to act or behave. The word what refers to the substance of your instruction, the "things" you tell them to do. But the same instruction could be perceived in either way, as act or action.

If you want to use the word tell to mean "instruct or command" you need an object:

Do as I tell you.

Do as I tell ungrammatical.

Do as I say you ungrammatical

Do as I say.

  • 1
    "You hate doing as I tell you" doesn't sound idiomatic to me (in the UK).
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 26 at 13:18
  • @StuartF Interesting. How, exactly? "Hate doing"? or "doing as I tell you"?
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 26 at 13:56
  • Here's a Brit from the early 20th century who "hates doing things by halves". google.com/books/edition/The_Osbornes/…
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 26 at 13:58
  • If both are idiomatic why are there exactly two matches on Google for "doing as I tell" and one match for "doing as he tells”
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 26 at 15:04

So, "to do as I tell" is a verb. it is not a verb, it is a phrase. The main verb is "do" but instead of "to do" it should be in the imperative voice "Do"

Do as I say is a fixed phrase today, closer to an idiom, although dictionaries classify it as a proverb. The full quote, which is still current, is derived from the 1654 Table-Talk by John Selden:

Preachers say, "Do as I say, not as I do”

Do as I tell you [to] (we must have a direct object after tell) appears to be a variation but its meaning is slightly different from the previous one. The speaker expects obedience from the listener, they are not acknowledging the hypocrisy as the 1654 quote admits.

“You can have the dam gun but I want to keep my belt. [sic] I told him to unbuckle the belt and drop them on the ground. I would take the gun and hand his belt back to him. He did as I told him.
Source: The Autobiography of Rufe LeFors

He did as I told him [to] is grammatical but I think the more common phrase structure is

"he did as he was told"

So Joseph as obedient as before did as he was told. But when he reached the land he found that one of Herods' sons was ruling over the country where Bethlehem was. He was afraid to go there as he had meant to do, so he went to Nazareth where Mary's early home used to be.
Source: Sunday School Helper (1894)

To answer the OP's question

“Is it natural to say "You hate doing as I tell"?”

No, as well as not sounding natural, it is also ungrammatical. The correct form would be

You hate doing what I tell you [to do]

the part in square brackets can be omitted. The sentence means that the listener strongly dislikes being told how to behave and/or ignores the speaker's instructions.

  • But you didn't say the difference between "You hate doing as I tell you" and “You hate doing what I tell you"?
    – Tom
    Commented Feb 25 at 14:31
  • The first is ungrammatical, the second means the listener hates being told what to do.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 25 at 14:32
  • You had better updated your answer because I updated my question.
    – Tom
    Commented Feb 25 at 14:46
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    The mistake was there though, repeatedly, and it's not unusual for non-native speakers to leave out the object after "tell". It's a common error in writing. My first comment included "tell" with the pronoun but it's only when I posted the answer that you realised the question title and the example were ungrammatical. Look at when people said it was not natural–you even quoted their answers, and they all included the object pronoun. So... from my experience and what you wrote I wasn't digging into anything. I was blunt and truthful when I said "You hate doing as I tell" is ungrammatical.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 25 at 15:44
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    Your now-deleted comment asked what was the difference in meaning between "Do as I say" and "I hate doing as you tell” . I edited and explained the difference in meaning. You deleted the comment. Now you have changed the question, which I saw exactly 10 minutes ago. NOW you want to say why you can't say "You hate doing as I tell you" That's a different question. I spent time composing an answer to an older question, I did the research, I looked for references and supporting evidence. Now, you're asking me to scrap all of that out and start afresh?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 25 at 15:54

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