Definition of say verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//seɪ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//seɪ//
    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they say
    BrE BrE//seɪ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//seɪ//
    he / she / it says
    BrE BrE//sez//
    ; NAmE NAmE//sez//
    past simple said
    BrE BrE//sed//
    ; NAmE NAmE//sed//
    past participle said
    BrE BrE//sed//
    ; NAmE NAmE//sed//
    -ing form saying
    BrE BrE//ˈseɪɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈseɪɪŋ//
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  1. 1  [intransitive, transitive] to speak or tell somebody something, using words + speech ‘Hello!’ she said. ‘That was marvellous,’ said Daniel. In stories the subject often comes after said, says or say when it follows the actual words spoken, unless it is a pronoun. say something Be quiet, I have something to say. I didn't believe a word she said. That's a terrible thing to say. He knew that if he wasn't back by midnight, his parents would have something to say about it (= be angry). say something to somebody She said nothing to me about it. say to somebody/yourself + speech I said to myself (= thought), ‘That can't be right!’ say (that)… He said (that) his name was Sam. it is said that… It is said that she lived to be over 100. say (what, how, etc…) She finds it hard to say what she feels. ‘That's impossible!’ ‘So you say (= but I think you may be wrong).’ ‘Why can't I go out now?’ ‘Because I say so.’ ‘What do you want it for?’ ‘I'd rather not say.’ say to do something He said to meet him here. somebody/something is said to be/have something He is said to have been a brilliant scholar. Express YourselfInterruptingYou may need to say something when somebody else is speaking, or you may be chairing a discussion where you have to stop one person talking too much. If you start talking at the same time as someone else, this will seem rude. To interrupt politely, you can say, for example: Sorry to interrupt, but I have to disagree with that. Could I just say something here? If I could, let me stop you there for a moment and go back to your previous point. Actually, we seem to have strayed a bit from the topic. Can we go back to the first point? Just a moment, Sue. Can we hear what Jack has to say on this? May I interrupt you there? I don't think that's true. (formal) I’m sorry, but we’re running short on time. Can you please summarize very quickly so we can finish up? (formal) I appreciate your enthusiasm on this topic, but I’m afraid we have a couple more people to hear from. (formal) Could you two please discuss that issue privately after the meeting? We have several more items to cover and need to move on at this point. (formal) I’m sorry, I really have to stop you there. We've run out of time. (formal) Let’s save that conversation for another time. Which Word?say / tell Say never has a person as the object. You say something or say something to somebody. Say is often used when you are giving somebody’s exact words:‘Sit down’, she said. Anne said, ‘I’m tired.’ Anne said (that) she was tired. What did he say to you? You cannot use ‘say about’, but say something about is correct:I want to say something/​a few words/​a little about my family. Say can also be used with a clause when the person you are talking to is not mentioned:She didn’t say what she intended to do. Tell usually has a person as the object and often has two objects:Have you told him the news yet? It is often used with ‘that’ clauses:Anne told me (that) she was tired. Tell is usually used when somebody is giving facts or information, often with what, where, etc:Can you tell me when the movie starts? (BUT:Can you give me some information about the school?) Tell is also used when you are giving somebody instructions:The doctor told me to stay in bed. The doctor told me (that) I had to stay in bed. ORThe doctor said (that) I had to stay in bed. NOTThe doctor said me to stay in bed.
  2. repeat words
  3. 2  [transitive] say something to repeat words, phrases, etc. to say a prayer Try to say that line with more conviction.
  4. express opinion
  5. 3  [transitive, intransitive] to express an opinion on something say something Say what you like (= although you disagree) about her, she's a fine singer. I'll say this for them, they're a very efficient company. Anna thinks I'm lazy—what do you say (= what is your opinion)? say (that)… I can't say I blame her for resigning (= I think she was right). I say (= suggest) we go without them. I wouldn't say they were rich (= in my opinion they are not rich). That's not to say it's a bad movie (= it is good but it is not without faults). say (what, how, etc…) It's hard to say what caused the accident. ‘When will it be finished?’ ‘I couldn't say (= I don't know).’
  6. give example
  7. 4  [transitive, no passive] to suggest or give something as an example or a possibility say something/somebody You could learn the basics in, let's say, three months. Let’s take any writer, say (= for example) Dickens… say (that)… Say you lose your job: what would you do then?
  8. show thoughts/feelings
  9. 5  [transitive] say something (to somebody) to make thoughts, feelings, etc. clear to somebody by using words, looks, movements, etc. His angry glance said it all. That says it all really, doesn't it? (= it shows clearly what is true) Just what is the artist trying to say in her work?
  10. give written information
  11. 6  [transitive, no passive] (of something that is written or can be seen) to give particular information or instructions + speech The notice said ‘Keep Out’. say something The clock said three o'clock. say (that)… The instructions say (that) we should leave it to set for four hours. say where, why, etc… The book doesn't say where he was born. say to do something The guidebook says to turn left.
  12. Word OriginOld English secgan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zeggen and German sagen.Extra examples ‘I am home, ’ he said simply. ‘I don’t know,’ she said crossly. ‘There’s nothing wrong with him, ’ she said airily. ‘Well, at least we tried!’ he said with a shrug. ‘You’ll see!’ Lianne said with a smile. A government spokesman was quoted as saying that they would take steps to restore order. Can you honestly say you’re sorry? Do you have anything to say about this? I dare say they she’ll come to the wedding. I dared not say a word about it to anyone. I hate to say it, but I think Stephen may be right. I have to say I didn’t expect it to be so good. I heard him say they were leaving tomorrow. I want to say how much we have all enjoyed this evening. I’ve forgotten what I was going to say. It is fair to say a considerable amount of effort went into the project. Needless to say, it all went smoothly in the end. She wasn’t at her best, it has to be said. Suffice it to say, I refused to get involved. That was a very cruel thing to say. That’s not what he said to me. The minister was quoted as saying that the government would do whatever was necessary to restore order. ‘When will it be finished?’ ‘ I couldn’t say.’ ‘Why can’t I go out now?’ ‘Because I say so.’ Anna thinks I’m lazy— what do you say? He said a quiet prayer to himself. I can’t say I blame her for resigning. I didn’t believe a word she said. I wouldn’t like to say what the impact might be on my business. I wouldn’t say they were rich I’ll say this for them, they’re a very efficient company. It’s difficult to say exactly where it will land. It’s hard to say what caused the accident. Just say he refuses to talk to you. Say what you like about her, she’s a fine singer. Say you lose your job. What then? Take any writer, say Dickens… Who can say what will happen between now and then? You could learn the basics in, let’s say, three months.Idioms
    be easier said than done
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    (saying) to be much more difficult to do than to talk about ‘Why don't you get yourself a job?’ ‘That's easier said than done.’
    before you can say Jack Robinson
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    (old-fashioned) very quickly; in a very short time
    used to say that you understand a situation and there is no need to say any more ‘He's a politician, remember.’ ‘Enough said.’ to be very obvious or easy to predict Of course I'll help you. That goes without saying.
    have something, nothing, etc. to say for yourself
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    to be ready, unwilling, etc. to talk or give your views on something She doesn't have much to say for herself (= doesn't take part in conversation). He had plenty to say for himself (= he had a lot of opinions and was willing to talk). Late again—what have you got to say for yourself (= what is your excuse)?
    (informal) used to introduce an opinion that makes what you have just said seem less strong I sometimes get worried in this job. Having said that, I enjoy doing it, it's a challenge.
    I dare say (also I daresay especially in British English)
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    used when you are saying that something is probable I dare say you know about it already.
    if you don’t mind me/my saying so…
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    used when you are going to criticize somebody or say something that might upset them That colour doesn't really suit you, if you don't mind my saying so.
    (old-fashioned, informal) used for emphasis to say ‘yes’ ‘Does she see him often?’ ‘I'll say! Nearly every day.’
    I’m glad to say (that…)
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    (informal) used when you are commenting on a situation and saying that you are happy about it Most teachers, I'm glad to say, take their jobs very seriously.
    used for saying that something is disappointing He didn't accept the job, I'm sorry to say. (informal) used to emphasize an opinion Well, I must say, that's the funniest thing I've heard all week.
      I say (old-fashioned, British English, informal)
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    1. 1used to express surprise, shock, etc. I say! What a huge cake!
    2. 2used to attract somebody’s attention or introduce a new subject of conversation I say, can you lend me five pounds?
    it says a lot, very little, etc. for somebody/something
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    (informal) it shows a good/bad quality that somebody/something has It says a lot for her that she never lost her temper. It didn't say much for their efficiency that the order arrived a week late.
    I wouldn’t say no (to something)
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    (informal) used to say that you would like something or to accept something that is offered I wouldn't say no to a pizza. ‘Tea, Brian?’ ‘I wouldn't say no.’
    least said soonest mended
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    (British English, saying) a bad situation will pass or be forgotten most quickly if nothing more is said about it
    the less/least said the better
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    the best thing to do is say as little as possible about something
    used when making a suggestion or giving an example I can let you have it for, well let's say £100. used to emphasize what you are saying or to ask somebody if they really mean what they say I mean to say, you should have known how he would react! Do you mean to say you've lost it? used to emphasize that the information you are giving is obvious The problem, needless to say, is the cost involved. (saying) do not stop hoping
    no sooner said than done
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    used to say that something was, or will be, done immediately
    not have a good word to say for somebody/something
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    (informal) to never say anything good about somebody/something Nobody had a good word to say about him.
    not say boo to a goose (British English) (North American English not say boo to anyone)
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    to be very shy or gentle He's so nervous he wouldn't say boo to a goose.
    used to introduce a stronger way of describing something a difficult, not to say impossible, task
    put/place something on (the) record, be/go on (the) record (as saying…)
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    to say something publicly or officially so that it may be written down and repeated He didn't want to go on the record as either praising or criticizing the proposal. I should like to place on record my sincere thanks to all those who have given support.
    used to ask somebody to smile before you take their photograph  to refuse an offer, a suggestion, etc. If you don't invest in this, you're saying no to a potential fortune. (informal) used to say that you understand exactly what somebody means or is trying to say, so it is unnecessary to say anything more ‘They went to Paris together.’ ‘Say no more!’ to say exactly what you feel or think (North American English, informal) used to express surprise at what somebody has just said ‘He's getting married.’ ‘Say what?’ used to ask somebody to tell you when you should stop pouring a drink or serving food for them because they have enough to give an order; to make a request Just say the word, and I'll go.
    suffice (it) to say (that)…
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    used to suggest that although you could say more, what you do say will be enough to explain what you mean I won’t go into all the details. Suffice it to say that the whole event was a complete disaster.
    in other words three days from now, that is to say on Friday used to introduce an opinion that makes what you have just said seem less strong
    that’s not saying much
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    used to say that something is not very unusual or special She's a better player than me, but that's not saying much (= because I am a very bad player).
    used to say that it is impossible to predict what might happen There's no saying how he'll react.
    there’s something, not much, etc. to be said for something/doing something
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    there are/are not good reasons for doing something, believing something or agreeing with something
    without exaggerating at all I was surprised, to say the least.
    to say nothing of something
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    used to introduce a further fact or thing in addition to those already mentioned synonym not to mention It was too expensive, to say nothing of the time it wasted.
    (informal) I agree completely ‘We must stand up for ourselves.’ ‘Well said, John.’
    what do/would you say (to something/doing something)
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    (informal) would you like something/to do something? What do you say to eating out tonight? Let's go away for a weekend. What do you say?
    (informal) used to agree to somebody’s suggestion because you do not want to argue
    what/whatever somebody says, goes
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    (informal, often humorous) a particular person must be obeyed Sarah wanted the kitchen painted green, and what she says, goes.
    when all is said and done
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    when everything is considered I know you're upset, but when all's said and done it isn't exactly a disaster.
    used to say that nobody knows the answer to a question Who can say what will happen next year? (informal) used to disagree with a statement or an opinion Who says I can't do it? used to say that something might happen or might have happened in a particular way, because nobody really knows Who's to say we would not have succeeded if we'd had more time? (informal) I agree with you completely ‘He's in a bad mood today.’ ‘You can say that again!’
    you can’t say fairer (than that)
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    (British English, informal) used to say that you think the offer you are making is reasonable or generous Look, I'll give you £100 for it. I can't say fairer than that.
    (informal, often ironic) used to express surprise ‘They left without us.’ ‘You don't say!’ (= I'm not surprised)
      you said it! (informal)
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    1. 1(British English) used to agree with somebody when they say something about themselves that you would not have been rude enough to say yourself ‘I know I'm not the world's greatest cook.’ ‘You said it!’
    2. 2(North American English) used to agree with somebody’s suggestion
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: say