An Online Catalogue of English Grammar Exercises

Say, tell, explain, speak.

You say "................" words to people e.g.  I said I didn´t pass my exam.
You tell some-one words e.g. I told you I didn´t pass my exam.
You explain something to some-one e.g I explained to my parents that I didn't pass the exam.
Use 'speak' for languages e.g. I don't speak French.
Use 'speak' when you are not quoting the actual words some-one spoke.

In the following exercise choose from the verbs say, tell, explain, speak, talk.

Practice Exercise 1

The managing director (1) the staff that he was very pleased with the company profits for the year. He (2) they would all get a rise. Afterwards the company accountant (3) about taxes and (4) they could put the money in a pension scheme if they wanted to. One of the staff (5) to him afterwards and asked about shares in the company.
"That might be possible," the accountant (6).
"Why don't you (7) to the managing director and (8) your idea to him?"
"I did (9) to him," (10) the member of staff, "but he (11) me the company couldn't afford it."        "(12) him again. He may react differently this time!"

Answers (1) told  (2) said  (3) explained  (4) said  (5) spoke ( 6) said  (7) speak  (8) explain ( 9) talk, speak (10) told   (11) told  (12) tell

Practice Exercise 2. A simple story, but the exercise is difficult!
Use: say, speak, tell, explain.

The old rabbit ……(1), "The traffic is very dangerous for the young rabbits here. I'm going to….(2) all the other rabbits to move."                                                                                           When he ……(3) to the other rabbits what he wanted to do they all…….(4) there was nowhere safe. He…….(5) he would investigate. He………(6) to the rabbits who lived in the countryside and they …(7) him that men came to kill them with poison and guns and traps.       'I will….(8) to the city rabbits', he……(9) and …..(10) his family he was going to the city.           In the city he………(11) his problem.                                                                                   'You're lucky', they……..(12). 'Here they put us in cages and zoos. Stay where you are', they…...(13) him. 'Better the devil you know than the devil you don't'.*

*This is a saying, a proverb, in English.

Answers:. 1.said/explained     2.tell   3.explain    4.said   5.said   6. spoke  7.told 9.said   10.told  11. explained   12.said            13. told

See The A - Z of English Grammar & Usage for the rules.

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