I'm French and have sometimes/often difficulty understanding certain expressions.

Presently, I'm not sure of the sense of the following phrase:

I can tell the things

that lies in this sentence :

I am learning Python and so far I can tell the things below about __new__ and __init__

I wonder if the phrase in it is correct or if it shouldn't be :

I can't tell the things

I would understand the second one as meaning "I'm completely confused about __new__ and __init__" , but like it presently is, I'm not sure how I must interpret the phrase hence the sentence.

Also, is the word below part of the phrase? or not, as I did in the above line with can't?

In fact, I also wonder if the phrase is an idiom or not.

  • 1
    Hi eyquem, welcome to ELU. I think you might find English Language Learners a better place to ask your questions. Feb 13, 2013 at 19:00
  • @FumbleFingers Hello. Perfect suggestion. I precisely had the idea you described, thinking that if the expression wasn't an idiom, then it would not be a question of a sufficiently high level of language to be justified to be asked on this site. But I didn't know where to go. Now I know, thank you. I will upvote some of your posts in the future, when I will have time to read.
    – eyquem
    Feb 13, 2013 at 19:52
  • Thanks. Your command of English seems pretty good, but you still might also appreciate the fact that many of us do try extra hard on ELL to keep the phrasing simple in our answers. Also, because there are probably a higher percentage of non-native speakers active on ELL, it's arguably more likely people may explain why someone who speaks French, for example, is liable to make a particular error. Knowing that may make it much easier to remember how to get it right next time! (I bet it's being French that made you put "precisely" before rather than after "had" there! :) Feb 13, 2013 at 21:41

1 Answer 1


The whole phrase is definitely not some idiom, it's just normal use of the idiomatic phrase in this specific context:

I can tell that [something]...

is equivalent to "I know that [something] is true"

"Things below" in this case means the listed statements. You could replace that statement in the linked question with "I know that:"

The asker asks this to avoid answers to contain informations he knows already, so he lists his current knowledge before asking questions that depend on it.

In this case, below (not bellow) means simply "listed under this statement", normal physical below as "located lower".

  • OK. I was completly out of the meaning. Thank you very much.
    – eyquem
    Feb 13, 2013 at 14:15
  • 1
    It is an idiom: "I can tell" is used to mean "I can perceive" or "I can determine", even though the verb "tell" rarely means "perceive" or "determine" on its own. The "things" part is specific to some context. Feb 13, 2013 at 17:07
  • I can tell that.. is certainly normal. But I can tell the things below sounds so unidiomatic that I was unsure of the meaning until I checked the context; I presume it means What I have learned is:. (Full disclosure: I am neither American nor a programmer.) Feb 13, 2013 at 18:40

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