Why do Americans ‘tell’ you Good Morning? Isn’t it a greeting rather than information?

This is a quote from a book I am currently reading:

She went through to the kitchen to tell her children good morning before leaving for work.

This isn’t the first time I have heard this and wondered if anyone could explain why tell might be used rather than wish.

  • 6
    Which Americans are these? Please provide the context. I encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for guidance on writing good, answerable questions.
    – choster
    Apr 18, 2016 at 16:21
  • 6
    I think that Americans (and other English-speakers) are likely to wish you a Good Morning as a greeting (as opposed to telling you Good Morning).
    – user11752
    Apr 18, 2016 at 16:23
  • 3
    +1 could you please give the title of the book you are reading, the author's nationality would be nice to know. Thanks!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 20, 2016 at 6:15
  • 2
    @MaxWilliams the OP isn't asking why Americans say "Good morning", but why the reporting verb "tell" is used in this instance. Although, come to think of it, I suppose you could be referring to this.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 20, 2016 at 8:18
  • 1
    "tell" only seems to appear in latter half of the 20th C, and still lags far behind "wish" or "bid". ngram
    – Neil W
    Apr 20, 2016 at 10:38

2 Answers 2


This is my view, incurred upon reading your sentence:

Good Morning is often used (by parents) as the first phrase to say to their children in the morning, more as a regular habit than as a wish.So often, tell is more appropriate decription of their tone. Moreover, parents (like mine) , those who go early to work, often use the phrase to wake their children up from bed, so often the soft tone of wishing won't actually work!

  • @Querty But that doesn't explain why it is tell. You tell someone some information, or you tell them what to do - but you don't tell them a greeting.
    – TrevorD
    Apr 21, 2016 at 0:04
  • @TrevorD :I mentioned that Good Morning is often used by parents to wake children up from bed, thats why it is told to them. It is not used as a greeting, just a replacement for the word wake up .
    – Qwerty
    Apr 21, 2016 at 4:52
  • @TrevorD : If you like my answer,please be kind enough to upvote.
    – Qwerty
    Apr 21, 2016 at 4:54
  • @Querty Sorry, but I don't like it for the reasons already stated. I still don't understand why you use "tell", and have already explained why in my first comment: I don't see that "wak[ing] children up from bed" is telling them anything: certainly not in BrE.
    – TrevorD
    Apr 21, 2016 at 20:54
  • @TrevorD : Is it not informing a sleeping child "wake up, is already morning!"
    – Qwerty
    Apr 22, 2016 at 4:11

The author uses the word "tell" because of the wording of the rest of the sentence. If it had been "a good morning" then it would use the word wish, but since the word "a" has been omitted, the word tell makes more sense. Basically, the author uses "good morning" as a quote from the character without using quotation marks: "...to tell her children, 'good morning'" Also, the word 'tell' doesn't always mean you're giving information, sometimes it's simply used as another way of saying "say to." For context, the quote above is essentially equivalent to "...to say to her children 'good morning.'"

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