Say or Tell?
Say and tell have similar meanings. They both mean to communicate verbally with someone. But we often use them differently.
The simple way to think of say and tell is:
  • You say something
  • You tell someone something
You say something
You tell someone something
Ram said that he was tired.
Ram told Jane that he was tired.
Anthony says you have a new job.
Anthony tells me you have a new job.
Tara said: "I love you."
Tara told John that she loved him.
But, of course, it is not always so easy. Here are a few rules to help you.
Personal object
We usually follow tell with a personal object (the person that we are speaking to). We usually use say without a personal object:
  • She told me that she loved John.
  • She said that she loved John.
  • He told everybody that he had to leave.
  • He said that he had to leave.

Say "to someone"
With say, we sometimes use "to someone":
  • He said to me that he was tired.
  • Tara said to Ram that he had done very well.
  • Anthony said to her, "I hope you come soon."
  • "I'd like to sleep," she said to him quietly.
Direct speech
We can use say with direct speech. We use tell only with direct speech that is an instruction or information:
  • Amanda said, "Hello John. How are you?"
  • "That's great'" she said.
  • He told her: "Open the door quietly."
  • She told me, "I have never been to England."
We can use say with direct questions, but we cannot use tell:
  • She said: "Do you love me?"
  • The policeman said to the prisoner, "Where were you at 8pm?"
Reported speech
We can use say and tell to talk about reported information:
  • She said that it was raining.
  • She told me that she would call at 2pm.
We cannot use say or tell to talk about reported questions. We must use ask (or a similar verb):
  • She asked if I had ever been there.
  • They asked what I wanted to eat.
  • She asked where he lived.
  • He asked if she wanted to go home.
Orders, advice
We use tell + object + infinitive for orders or advice:
  • She told him to sit down.
  • They told me not to wait.
  • Tell Neil to have a holiday and forget her.
Here are a few fixed phrases with tell. We cannot use say with these phrases:
  • tell (someone) a story
  • tell (someone) a lie
  • tell (someone) the truth
  • tell the future (= to know what the future will bring)
  • tell the time (= know how to read a clock)
Right and wrong
Read these examples of correct and incorrect usage:
We cannot...
These are NOT possible...
These are possible...
say someone to do something
Tara said Jo to go away.
Tara told Jo to go away.
say someone something
Panita said me that she was hungry.
Panita told me that she was hungry.
tell something
He told that he likes coffee.
He said that he likes coffee.
tell to someone
Tookta told to me that she was coming.
Tookta told me that she was coming.
Tookta said to me that she was coming.
say a lie
Siriluck always says lies.
Siriluck always tells lies.
tell somebody "direct speech"
(except instructions and information)
Ram told Nok: "Let's turn on the TV."
Ram said to Nok: "Let's turn on the TV."
(Ram told Nok, "Turn on the TV.")
(Ram told Nok: "I was born in 1985.")
say or tell a reported question
She said if I wanted to come.
She asked if I wanted to come.
Tookta told what I wanted to do.
Took asked what I wanted to do.

See, Look Or Watch?

See, look and watch are verbs that we use to talk about our sense of sight - using our eyes. But they have important differences in meaning.


We use see to mean simply that an image comes into our eyes. It may not be deliberate. As soon as we open our eyes, we see things.
  • I can see a cloud in the sky.
  • I suddenly saw a bird fly in front of me.
  • Didn't you see Ram? He was waving at you.

Look (at)

When we look, we try to see. We make a special effort. We concentrate our eyes on something.
  • Look! It's snowing!
  • Look at this photo! Isn't it beautiful?
  • I'm looking but I don't see it.
When we use look with an object, we say look + at + object, for example:
John looked at Mary.


With the verb watch, we are much more active. Watch is like look, but requires more effort from us. Wewatch things that are going to move, or change in some way. And we watch the movements and changes.
  • The police decided to watch the suspected murderer rather than arrest him immediately. They hoped he would lead them to the body.
  • I like watching motor racing on TV.
  • If you watch that egg for long enough you'll see it hatch.
Watch or See for movies, concerts, TV etc?
In general, we use see for public performances and watch for television at home.
  • We're going to see George Clooney's latest movie at the cinema tonight.
  • We saw the All Blacks beat Wales in Cardiff last year.
  • Did you ever see Michael Jackson live on stage?
  • Have you seen that Gaddafi video on YouTube?
  • Last night we stayed home and watched some films on TV.
  • When I'm bored I play a few DVDs and watch them on my computer.
Do or Make?
It is not always easy to choose between "do" and "make".
Do can be an auxiliary verb (Do you like coffee?) or a main verb (I did my homework yesterday.). As an auxiliary verb, it has no meaning. It is necessary only for the grammatical structure. As a main verb it has a meaning, but the meaning is rather general. It often expresses a general activity.
Make is not an auxiliary verb. It is always a main verb (I made a cake yesterday.). Its meaning is also rather general, but it often expresses the idea of construction or creation.
In this lesson we look at some guidelines that may help you, followed by a quiz to check your understanding:

Hear Or Listen?

Hear and listen are verbs that we use to talk about our sense of hearing - using our ears. But they have important differences in meaning.


We use hear to mean simply that sounds come into our ears. It may not be deliberate. As soon as we wake up and walk around, we hear things.
  • I heard a knock at the door.
  • I suddenly heard a loud noise.
  • Can you speak louder please? I can't hear you.

Listen (to)

When we listen, we try to hear. We pay attention and try to understand every sound.
  • Listen! Is someone crying?
  • Listen to this song. Can you understand the words?
  • I'm listening but I can't hear anything.
When we use listen with an object, we say listen + to + object, for example:
John is listening to the radio.

Hear or Listen (to) for radio, concerts, talks, lectures etc?
In general, we use hear for public performances and listen for non-public performances.
  • We went to hear the President's big speech last night.
  • I heard Madonna singing "Like A Virgin" at the concert.
  • Do you ever listen to the radio in your car?
  • Have you listened to that recording I sent you?

Unlike Or Dislike?

The words unlike and dislike are opposites of the word like. But to understand the difference betweenunlike and dislike, we need to understand the difference between "like" as a preposition and "like" as averb.

Like - Unlike (preposition)

As a preposition, like means "similar to" or "nearly the same as". Look at these examples:
  • John was wearing a shirt like mine.
  • He looked like a ghost.
For the opposite of the preposition like, we use unlike, which means "not like" or "not similar to":
  • John is unlike Peter, even though they are twins.
  • I was surprised by John's behaviour. It is unlike him to be rude.
Note that like, unlike and dislike can all be used, less frequently, as parts of speech other than those shown here. On this page we discuss only the parts of speech that relate to the confusion between these words.

Like - Dislike | Unlike (verb)

As a verb, to like means "to find (something) pleasant" or "to consider (something) enjoyable":
  • I like you.
  • Mary likes swimming. She goes swimming every day.
For the usual opposite of the verb like, we use dislike, which means "to not like" or "to find (something) unpleasant/disagreeable":
  • Robert dislikes being called "Robbie".
  • I disliked her from the moment we met.
(no feeling)
The word unlike as a verb was very rare until an American website called used it to "undo" or "turn off" their Like button. In this sense, you stop liking something (or someone) after youstart liking it. Note that to unlike is not the same as to to dislike. If you "dislike" something, you have a negative feeling about it. But to "unlike" something means simply to stop liking it. You may or may not now also dislike it.
Remember, though, that in the real world unlike as a verb is rare today, and its use is confined mainly to social networking.
The verb unlike (meaning "to stop liking") has been used -- albeit rarely -- for centuries, and can be seen in this quotation from the 18th-century classic Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph by Frances Sheridan: "What can I do? My heart is not in a disposition to love...I cannot compel it to like, and unlike, and like anew at pleasure."

Lie Or Lay?

The verbs lie and lay confuse people because:
  • their meanings can be similar
  • one of the verbs (lie) has two completely different meanings
  • they vary between regular and irregular according to sense
  • they vary between transitive and intransitive according to sense
  • the present tense of lay is the past tense of the irregular lie
The following table summarizes these similarities and differences:

to lie
to lie
to lay
basic meaning
to tell a lie, an untruth
to recline; to be in or to take a horizontal/resting position
to put something down in a horizontal position
lie, lied, lied
lie, lay, lain
lie, laid, laid
transitive? direct object?
(no direct object)
(no direct object)
(must have direct object)
3rd person s
present participle
past tense
past participle

Lie (regular, intransitive)

The first one above is easy. In the sense "to tell a lie, say something that is not true", lie is a regular verb and has no direct object. The past tense is always -ed. Look at these examples:
  • Some people lie about their age.
  • John lies about everything.
  • "I'm forty-nine," he lied.
  • We have all lied a few times in our lives.
  • That's not true! You're lying!

Lie (irregular, intransitive)

Now we come to the irregular lie, meaning "to be in, or to take, a horizontal/resting position". This is what we do on a bed, for example. We lie on our bed when we sleep.
The important thing to remember with lie is that it is intransitive, so there is no direct object. Look at this examples. You see there is no direct object.

My dog
on this mat.
is lying
on the sofa.
You also need to remember that the past tense of this lie is "lay", which is the same as the present tense of to lay. Look at this table of conjugation:

present perfect
have lain
have lain
he, she, it
has lain
have lain
have lain
have lain
*This is the same as the present tense of to lay.
Look at these example sentences:
  • I feel sick. I want to lie on the bed.
  • Usually I lie on the sofa and watch TV.
  • My dog always lies on this mat.
  • He loves this mat. Yesterday, he lay here all day.
  • She has lain in bed since she got ill.
  • After the aircrash, wreckage was lying all over the place.
Typical mistake
  • I always lay on a bench to do this exercise. (should be lie)
Lie is something that we do to ourselves. Lay is something that we do to other people or things.
  • I lie on the sofa when I'm tired.
  • Mary lays the baby in its crib when it cries.

Lay (irregular, transitive)

The main meaning of the verb lay is "to put (something) down in a horizontal position".
The important thing to remember with lay is that it is transitive, so it MUST have a direct object. You cannot just lay. You have to lay something. Look at these examples. You see they all have direct objects.
direct object


Our chickens
their eggs
on the ground.
The nurses
the wounded man
on the bed.
Here is a table of conjugation:

present perfect
have laid
have laid
he, she, it
have laid
have laid
have laid
have laid
Here are some example sentences:
  • The policeman told him to lay his gun on the ground.
  • The police usually lay a sheet over dead bodies.
  • This chicken lays three eggs every day.
  • He opened the books and laid them on the desk.
  • I have laid the carpet. You can walk on it now.
  • The phone rang just as she was laying the new clothes on the bed.
The verbs lie and lay can have other meanings too. Only the most common are shown here. There are also several phrasal verbs made with lie and lay. They follow the same basic rules as shown on this page.

Raise Or Rise?

The verbs raise and rise both refer to something going "up". The main difference between them is thatraise is transitive (it must have a direct object) and rise is intransitive (no direct object).
  • Something raises something.
  • Something rises.
We also note that:
  • raise is regular: raise, raised, raised
  • rise is irregular: rise, rose, risen

Raise (regular, transitive)

If you raise something, it means that you elevate it - you move it up or lift it to a higher level.
  • The government plans to raise the age of retirement from 65 to 67.
  • If you have a question, please raise your hand.
  • Mary raises her voice when she's angry.
  • He raised his eyebrows, as if surprised.
  • They have raised their prices every year since they were founded.
  • The king's men were raising the drawbridge when it collapsed.
On this page we discuss the meanings of raise and rise that mainly cause confusion. Both of these verbs have additional meanings that we do not discuss here.

Rise (irregular, intransitive)

If something rises, it means that it elevates itself - it goes up itself. No external force is needed to lift it. But note that there is not always a physical movement; sometimes the meaning is just "to increase".
  • I like to rise at 6am, but my husband stays in bed until 8am.
  • If it doesn't stop raining, the river will rise and overflow.
  • Hot air rises.
  • John rose from his chair when Mary walked in.
  • Jane has risen in her company very quickly and is now CEO.
  • Prices are rising all the time.

To help you compare the meanings, here are some examples with raise and rise in the same sentence:
  • We raise the flag when the sun rises, and we lower it when the sun goes down.
  • Whenever our commanding officer comes in, we rise from our chairs and raise our hands in salute.
  • The helicopter rose into the air, raising the survivors out of the water.

Important! There is some confusion over the nouns rise and raise when talking about pay or salary. In British English a (pay) rise is an increase in pay. In American English the word is (pay) raise.
  • Did you get a 4% pay rise last year? (BrE)
  • My boss said he's giving me a pay raise next month. (AmE)

island or Iceland or Ireland?

The words island, Iceland and Ireland are confusing because they sound similar and their spellings are similar. In fact, they have completely different meanings. To understand the differences, we have to think about the difference between common nouns andproper nouns.


An island is a piece of land completely surrounded by water. An island can be very small or very big. An island can be in a lake or in a river or in the sea. If it is land with water all around it, it is an island.
The "s" in "island" is silent. The word "island" is pronounced /aɪˈlənd/, with stress on first syllable.

Notice that island begins with a small letter, but Iceland and Ireland begin with a capital letter. They begin with a capital letter because they are names.


The word Iceland is the name of a country (sometimes called Republic of Iceland). However, the country of Iceland is also an island, because it is surrounded by water (the North Atlantic Ocean).
Note too that "Iceland" begins with a capital "I" because it is a name.
The word "Iceland" is pronounced /aɪsˈlənd/, with stress on first syllable.


Ireland is the name of an island to the west of Great Britain. The island of Ireland contains two political units:
  • Republic of Ireland (also called Eire), which is a country covering about 80% of the island of Ireland.
  • Northern Ireland, which covers about 20% of the island of Ireland and is politically part of the United Kingdom.
Note too that "Ireland" begins with a capital "I" because it is a name.
The word "Ireland" is pronounced /aɪərˈlənd/, with stress on first syllable.

The following table summarizes the relevant points about these three words:



noun type:
common noun
proper noun
proper noun
land surrounded by water
name of a country in the North Atlantic Ocean
name of an island to the west of Great Britain


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