tell Definition

  • 1to communicate information, facts, or news to someone
  • 2to recognize or distinguish something by observing or hearing it
  • 3to reveal or disclose something that was previously kept secret

Using tell: Examples

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with how "tell" can be used in various situations through the following examples!

  • Example

    Can you tell me what happened?

  • Example

    I can't tell the difference between these two fabrics.

  • Example

    She finally told him the truth about her past.

  • Example

    The expression on his face told me he was lying.

tell Synonyms and Antonyms

Idioms Using tell

  • you can't tell a book by its cover

    you cannot judge the true nature of someone or something just by looking at them or it


    I thought the movie would be terrible based on the trailer, but you can't tell a book by its cover - it was actually really good!

  • to speak honestly and directly, without sugarcoating or hiding the truth


    I appreciate that she always tells it like it is, even if it's not what I want to hear.

  • used to express agreement with someone who has just described a difficult or frustrating situation, implying that the speaker has experienced the same thing


    A: I've been working overtime every day this week. B: Tell me about it, I'm exhausted too.

Phrases with tell

  • to inform someone in authority about something wrong that someone else has done


    He threatened to tell on his little brother if he didn't give him the toy.

  • to distinguish one thing from another


    It's hard to tell the twins apart because they look so similar.

  • to scold or reprimand someone


    The teacher told off the students for not doing their homework.

Origins of tell

from Old English 'tellan', meaning 'to count, reckon'


Summary: tell in Brief

The verb 'tell' [tel] means to communicate information, recognize or distinguish something, or reveal something previously kept secret. It is used in various contexts, such as asking for information ('Can you tell me what happened?'), distinguishing between things ('I can't tell the difference between these two fabrics.'), or revealing secrets ('She finally told him the truth about her past.'). 'Tell' is also used in phrases like 'tell on' and idioms like 'you can't tell a book by its cover,' which means that appearances can be deceiving.

How do native speakers use this expression?