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  • A said that "if you want to get this job, you must know about computer hardware."
  • B state that "you must finished this task within this week, otherwise we will have problems"

I know and use only 2 words, "said" and "state" and I don't like when I write a long email and use same word over and over again. I want to know an alternative words to express someone say something.

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(1) In my experience, you don’t use the word “that” with exact quotations, only paraphrases (a.k.a. reported speech). So, A said, “You must know about computer hardware”, or, A said that I needed to know about computer hardware. (2) In your second example, if B is speaking correct English, she would say “you must finish” or “you must be finished”. – Scott Jun 13 '14 at 15:21
up vote 2 down vote accepted

You would use past tense stated rather than present tense state, but there's nothing wrong with using said several times, and it's often preferable to other synonyms.

From the Guardian style guide:

normally preferable to added, commented, declared, pointed out, ejaculated, etc; you can avoid too many "saids", whether quoting someone or in reported speech, quite easily
See reported speech

reported speech
When a comment in the present tense is reported, use past tense: "She said: 'I like chocolate'" (present tense) becomes in reported speech "she said she liked chocolate").

When a comment in the past tense is reported, use "had" (past perfect tense): "She said: 'I ate too much chocolate'" (past tense) becomes in reported speech "she said she had eaten too much chocolate" (not "she said she ate too much chocolate").

Once it has been established who is speaking, there is no need to keep attributing, so long as you stick to the past tense: "Alex said he would vote Labour. There was no alternative. It was the only truly progressive party," etc

Text that reads as if it has used every said synonym in the thesaurus can look very odd and unnatural.

For example, check today's leading article in The Guardian. A quick tally gives nine uses of said, and one each of told, telling, say and added.

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Thank you for your link, I thought it was unprofessional if I use lots of "said" in email. – Anonymous Dec 12 '11 at 9:42
@Anonymous: If you're reporting a lengthy back-and-forth exchange between two people, it's not uncommon to only identify each speaker once with the first thing they said. Then start a new line for each change of speaker, with everything they said enclosed in quotes. If one person says more than you want to put in a single paragraph, start the second paragraph with a quote mark as usual, but don't put a closing quote at the end of the preceding line. – FumbleFingers Dec 12 '11 at 16:33

As Hugo alludes, their are many words that mean some variation of "said", like "stated", "replied", "averred", "added", "explained", etc.

Frankly I think the use of such words is a tricky problem in writing style. If you use "said" exclusively and repeatedly, your text can sound very formulaic:

Al said, "Hello, Bob."

Bob said, "Oh, hello Al."

Al said, "I see you got a new car."

Bob said, "Yes, my old car was getting worn out."


So some writers vary up by using other words, like:

Al said, "Hello, Bob."

"Oh, hello Al," Bob replied.

Al went on, "I see you got a new car."

"Yes, my old car was getting worn out," Bob explained.

But if you do this too much, all the alternatives for "said" tend to become distracting. Any word other than "said", or "asked" if it's a question, tends to bring some extra emphasis. Overdo it and it's like putting an exclamation point after every sentence.

As @FumbleFingers notes in his comment, you can often omit any "said" or similar word completely. But this can also be confusing -- I sometimes find myself asking, "Wait, who said that?" and having to track back through the conversation going Al ... Bob ... Al ... Bob ... etc. So I tend to skip the attribution sparingly, i.e. don't just give the "Al said/Bob said" once at the beginning of the paragraph, but put a name on every second or third thing the person says. Also note that ommitting the attribution becomes particularly confusing if there are more than two people in the conversation. We can't necessarily assume they all speak in strict sequence, like Al ... Bob ... Cathy ... Al ... Bob ... Cathy ... Al ... Bob ... Cathy, etc.

So I try to split about 50/50 between "said" and no attribution, with a sprinkling of "replied", "insisted", "explained", etc on the statements that deserve a little more emphasis.

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For an extensive list of words for reporting speech, see...


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In a lot of cases of narrative, such as a back and forth of direct quotation, you don't need to keep noting that Bob said this, Shirley said that. Those are understood when placed in context. "Said" is a simple word that conveys the simple idea that someone spoke. If it is necessary to your writing that the reader understand the context through which the person spoke, you can get a little more created.

As for "stated," reserve that word for written material. For instance, a newspaper can state that the state fair will start next week.

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