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12 / 11 / 2004

EXPLAIN vs. TELL: meaning and examples

Good morning, Yesterday we looked at the structural difference between say and tell. Today we will compare explain and tell. EXPLAIN Explain is similar to say. In general, it only has one object. Structure --> EXPLAIN - SOMETHING However, with explain it's common to add a person (to someone), usually at the end of the sentence, to clarify who is being addressed. Structure --> EXPLAIN - SOMETHING - (TO SOMEONE) Example 1: The Marketing Director explained his annual marketing plan. It was very interesting. Example 2: The Marketing Director explained his annual marketing plan to us. It was very interesting. As you can see, it has a structure which is very similar to the structure of say. Tell, on the other hand, always takes 2 objects (as we saw yesterday): TELL Structure --> TELL - PERSON - SOMETHING or Structure --> TELL - SOMETHING - TO PERSON Of the 3 verbs, tell is used the most. So, if you're not sure which verb to use, use tell and you will probably be correct. Which of the following sentences are correct? The answers are after my signature. (a) John explained me how the computer worked. (b) You need to clearly explain the plan to him, or he's not going to understand it. (c) Don't explain anything personal to Janet. She'll tell your secrets to everyone. (d) Don't tell your secrets to anyone if you want to keep them secret. (e) He said he didn't like pizza. If you have any questions about explain and tell, please don't hesitate to contact me. I will do my best to explain everything to you as clearly as possible. Have a wonderful day and a great weekend! Enjoy your day!