What are the differences among the words mentioned above? To me "yell at" and "nag at" are informal way to say that someone disapproves something to someone else, with the difference that "yell at" involves the action of actually "yelling" while the other one doesn't necessarily. "Scold" as far as I've understood means the same thing (disapprove something) but it is old fashion. "Reprimand" never heard of it, but Cambridge dictionary suggests that could mean the same thing (in a formal context maybe?).

Like for example, a colleague of mine could be told by my boss that he has done something wrong. If I had to tell the story to a close friend of mine I would say "The boss yelled at X" (because maybe he actually yelled), while to a generic random colleague Y I would say "The boss reprimanded X" (because formally it was what happened, and I don't want to tell him how rude my boss was). "Tell off" apparently is used to express the same thing but in a parenting situation maybe.

Am I wrong? If yes, could you clarify the differences?

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    Why the down-vote out of curiosity? Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 16:20
  • I think there are lots of angry and resentful people who like to downvote just because they can. I upvoted because I think this is a good question, and most of the time I prefer to debate instead of giving a downvote, which is how a true Christian would proceed.
    – user85258
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 16:50

1 Answer 1


There are very many ways to disapprove of someone, ranging from a mild frown to shooting him dead.

If you yell or shout at someone, or scold him, you're mightily annoyed, angry and don't care to conceal it. Most of the times it's a pretty loud business.

If you nag someone - a way subtler method - you keep pestering him with cutting remarks until he gives up and does what you want (or blows up). Note that nagging doesn't necessarily imply disapproval: it can be done also out of sheer nastiness or naughtiness.

If you reprimand someone, you're his boss and you're telling him (not necessarily calmly) that he shouldn't have done what he did. This doesn't need to be hot; on the contrary it can be extremely and unpleasantly cold (which is way worse).

Telling someone off is akin to reprimanding him, just less businesslike.

Conciseness and readability demand that I restrict myself to masculine pronouns, but of course the above abused he may as well be a she. I hope no lady will feel wronged because of that.

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