I often hear people using "I said you" in Asia, but people in America use "I told you". Is there a difference between the usage of said and told? And to be more specific which is correct English — told or said?

  • 2
    The intended object of "said" is the word(s) one says; for "told", it is for whoever the speaker has been conversing with.
    – user730
    Dec 31, 2010 at 13:00
  • 1
    Only the first part is always true (regarding say). With tell, it can be either: e.g. "I told a story to John."
    – Kosmonaut
    Dec 31, 2010 at 15:19
  • As J.M says you say something and you tell someone.
    – SidJ
    Feb 23, 2012 at 7:08

4 Answers 4


@RedGrittyBrick has the correct answer, but has somewhat hidden it in an over-explanation. So I will spell it out clearly.

Never substitute I said you for I told you, if what you mean is that you told somebody something earlier and you are reminding them of that fact now.

Said requires the preposition to to get close to the same thing: I said to you. Even then, however, said never takes a direct object that is not some kind of a reference to words. I said do it. I said nothing.

Tell can take a person as a direct object. I told Bob. I'm telling you now. You would not use it to mean said because it does not take someone's utterance as a direct object. You would never say I told go, because that would mean you are telling the word "go" something. You would say, I said go.

More examples:

I said I was going.

John said he would be here tonight.

We said nothing about your indiscretions.

I told him to clear out his locker.

Mary told her friends all about the incident.

We told you then and we are telling you now: don't come around here anymore.

  • I think your last example is confusing since it could be rendered "We said then and we say now: don't come around here anymore."
    – ErikE
    Feb 23, 2012 at 6:06
  • @ErikE: How is that confusing? It does not suggest that you could use "said you" in any capacity.
    – Robusto
    Feb 23, 2012 at 12:57
  • It is merely my opinion about the usefulness to a non-native speaker.
    – ErikE
    Feb 23, 2012 at 17:51

I told you John is vegetarian.

Reminding someone of something they have forgotten you said to them. Sometimes this is abbreviated to "I told you so" or even "I told you". Though the latter seems to me a bit ugly as an isolated sentence.


I said to you, "John is vegetarian".

Reminding someone of the exact words you used, perhaps because they misheard or misunderstood.


I said you are vegetarian.

The last might be in answer to "What did you say to John?"

  • However, one could have a valid sentence of the form: I said "you!" ;-)
    – Suvrit
    Dec 31, 2010 at 13:54
  • 4
    So in a nutshell: Ahmed is probably looking for the first type of sentence, in which "I said you" is wrong. Dec 31, 2010 at 14:02
  • Can I say "I said to you that John is a vegetarian"?
    – Anixx
    Feb 23, 2012 at 6:24

"I told you" is right. Another way to explain how: The verb 'said' doesn't take an indirect object. In other words, it doesn't answer the question 'whom' put after the verb, like, 'I said whom?'. On the other hand, 'I told whom?' has an answer, 'I told you/her/them.'

Some right usages of 'I said':

  1. I said to you/them/her/him...
  2. I said that....
  3. I said, "You are/She is wonderful"
  4. I said something funny etc.

The verb, 'said' may answer the question 'what' put after it and not the question, 'whom'. But the verb 'told' can answer both questions,'what' and 'whom' put after it.


  1. I said (what?) that joke last week.
  2. Rita told (whom?) the children (what?) a lovely story.

of course " I told you " is correct. why? because you are going to remind him\her. also, if you are going to use "I said you", you have to add "to" after "said" to be more soundable. besides, the second one is often used when you are ganna say someone's talks "quotation" or about someone's talks. thanks.

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