/tel/ verb past tense and past participle told /tUld/
1 SAY/INFORMATION (T) to give someone facts or information about something: tell sb (that): She wrote to tell me she couldn't come. | Don't tell me you've forgotten my birthday again. | Police will not name the body until the relatives have been told. | tell sb who/why/what etc: There is a sign telling you where the emergency exits are. | tell sb about sth: Harry's been telling me all about his last vacation. | tell sb sth: Tell me your name and address. | Can you tell me the quickest way to Manchester? | tell a story/joke/secret/lie: When I was young my father told me stories about the war. | tell the truth: If Dan is telling the truth, the others are in danger. | tell sb straight (=tell someone the true facts or your true feelings): I told her straight I wasn't coming.
—see say 1
2 ORDER (T) to say that someone must do something; order: tell sb to do sth: The teacher told all the children to sit down quietly. | tell sb what/how etc: Don't tell me how to behave in public! | Stop trying to tell me what to do all the time. | tell sb (that): All the hostages were told that they had to lie on the floor. | do as you are told (=obey): These kids will never do as they're told.
3 tell yourself to remind yourself of the facts of a situation because it is difficult to accept or because it worries you: I keep telling myself there is nothing I could have done to save him.
4 RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS (intransitive, transitive not in progressive) to know something or be able to recognize something because of certain signs that show this: Yes I do dye my hair. How can you tell? | tell (that): Even though it was so dark I could still tell it was you. | tell when/how etc: It's hard to tell how long the job will take. | tell by/from: You can tell by the way it walks that the dog has been injured. | tell a mile off (=know very easily): You could tell a mile off that he was lying.
5 RECOGNIZE DIFFERENCE (transitive not in progressive) to be able to see how one person or thing is different from another: tell sth from sth: Amateurs may be unable to tell the fake from the original painting. | tell sb and sb apart: It's almost impossible to tell Jackie and Moira apart since they had their hair cut. | tell the difference: Margarine and butter? I can't tell the difference.
6 WARN (transitive usually in past tense) to warn someone that something bad might happen: tell sb (that): I told you it was a waste of time talking to him. | tell sb to do sth: My mother told me not to trust Robert.
7 BE A SIGN OF STH (transitive not in progressive or passive) to give information in ways other than talking which helps you know or understand more about a situation: tell sb (that): The bleeper tells you you've left your lights on. | tell sb what/why etc: The red light tells you when the machine is ready to use. | tell sb about sth: What do these fossils tells us about our ancestors?
8 tell the time BrE tell time AmE to be able to know what time it is by looking at a clock
9 AFFECT (intransitive not in progressive) to have an effect on someone, especially a harmful one: His years in the army certainly tell in his attitude to his work. | tell on sb: These late nights are really beginning to tell on her. | The stress of work told on their marriage.
—see also: telling
10 BAD BEHAVIOUR (I) informal to tell someone in authority about something wrong that someone has done: I'm going to tell, if you don't stop messing around. | tell on sb: If you promise not to tell on me I'll put the money back where I found it.
11 tell tales BrE to say something that is not true about someone else, especially to cause them trouble: Have you been telling tales again? | tell tales on sb: an unpopular child, always telling tales on the other children
—see also: tell tale tale (3)
12 tell sb where to get off informal to tell someone angrily that you are not interested in them, what they want etc: “Did you give him the money?” “No, I told him where to get off.”
13 all told altogether, when everyone or everything has been counted: There must have been eight cars in the accident, all told.
14 VOTES (T) technical to count the votes in an election
—see also: say 2 (1)
15 I'll tell you what used when you are suggesting or offering something: I tell you what, we'll get you something to eat on the way.
16 I told you so used when you have warned someone about a possible danger that has now happened and they have ignored your warning
17 to tell (you) the truth used to emphasize that you are being very honest: I don't really want to go out, to tell the truth.
18 I can tell you/I'm telling you used to emphasize that what you are saying is true even though it may be difficult to believe: I'm telling you Sheila, I've never seen anything like it in my life.
19 tell me used before asking a question: Tell me, what do you think of the new boss?
20 I'll tell you something/one thing/another thing used when giving your opinion about something, especially to someone you disagree with: I'll tell you one thing - you'll never get me to vote for him.
21 I couldn't tell you used to tell someone that you do not know the answer to their question: “How much would a rail ticket cost?” “ I couldn't tell you, I always drive.”
22 I can't tell you
a) used to say that you cannot tell someone something because it is a secret: “Where are you taking me?” “I can't tell you, it would spoil the surprise.”
b) used to say that you cannot express your feelings or describe something properly: I can't tell you how/what etc: I just can't tell you how worried I've been.
23 don't tell me used to interrupt someone because you know what they are going to say or because you want to guess: “I'm sorry I'm late but...” “Don't tell me - the car broke down again?”.
24 John/she etc tells me (that) used to say what someone has told you: Mike tells me you found a job.
25 I'm not telling (you) used to say that you refuse to tell someone something
26 that would be telling used to say that you cannot tell someone something because it is a secret
27 you're telling me used to emphasize that you already know and agree with something that someone has just said: “It's hot in here.” “You're telling me!”
28 tell me about it used to say that you already know how bad something is, especially because you have experienced it yourself: “I've been so tired lately.” “Yeah, tell me about it!”
29 you never can tell/you can never tell used to say that you cannot be certain about what will happen in the future
30 there's no telling what/how etc used to say that it is impossible to know what has happened or what will happen next: She's desperate. There's no telling what she'll try next.
31 tell me another used when you do not believe what someone has told you
tell against sb phrasal verb (transitive no passive) BrE formal if a bad quality or feature tells against you, it makes you unsuccessful in what you are trying to achieve: She has the figure of a model but her height really tells against her. tell sb/sth apart phrasal verb (transitive not in progressive) to be able to see which person or thing is which, even though they are very similar: I've never been able to tell the twins apart. (+ from): It's difficult to tell the forged stamp apart from the real one. tell of sb/sth phrasal verb (T) especially literary to describe the details of an event or person: The poem tells of the deeds of a famous warrior. tell sb off phrasal verb (T)
1 to talk angrily to someone because they have done something wrong: be/get told off: Do your homework or you'll get told off again. | tell sb off for doing sth: My dad told me off for swearing.
2 formal to separate a group of people from a larger group, in order to do special work or tasks: Ten soldiers were told off to dig ditches.

Longman dictionary of contemporary English. 2004.


Look at other dictionaries:

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