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Very often you hear people preface what they're about to say with I tell you what. Or is it I'll tell you what?

Is it correct to say a straight I tell you what as that interjection, or do you have to mark the "L" sound at least implicitly meaning that the correct version is I'll tell you what?

This is for American English only

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    Context needed.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 1:49

2 Answers 2

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"I'll tell you what" is correct term because the speaker is indicating what they will do ("I'll" is short for "I will"), which is to "tell you what." However, some people skip the " 'll," so you are likely to hear both, but "I'll" is the correct one.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 23:49
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    @YosefBaskin - I expect “I’ll tell you what” to be followed by what. “I’ll tell you what- it’s colder out there than I thought it would be.”
    – Jim
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 0:35
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There's no standard/"correct" version of this phrase. The phrase is informal, and both versions are used linguistically. The "I" is also often dropped: "Tell you what, you can have a cookie if you finish your broccoli."

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  • If we want to ignore grammar, then you would be correct that there is no "standard" way to say it. However, if we want to be grammatically correct, then the correct way to say it is "I'll tell you what" or "I will tell you what."
    – Taf04k
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 11:06
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    @Taf04k: If you're trying to be proper, "I'll tell you what" doesn't even make sense. The "what" is unnecessary--perhaps "I'll tell you this" would be proper--but it's an idiomatic phrase and it is informal, so however it is used by real people is grammatical. There is definitely not a standard way to say this phrase, which is why the OP asked the question in the first place.
    – user437833
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 14:31
  • @Taf04k: Also, feel free to provide evidence that "I tell you" is "ungrammatical." It's the simple present tense. That's grammar.
    – user437833
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 14:37
  • I see "being proper" and "being grammatically correct" as two separate things. While you need to be grammatically correct to be proper, you don't have to be proper if you want to be grammatically correct. You are correct that if we wanted to speak properly or formally, we wouldn't use this phrase. OP also asked which one is correct.
    – Taf04k
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 14:43
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    Yes, the distinction between the two is important, which is why I made it. As stated in my OP, there is no "correct" version of this phrase. The "proper" version may be "I will tell you this:" But it likely didn't originate there.
    – user437833
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 14:52

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