Language: Old English
Origin: secgan


1 verb
say1 S1 W1 past tense and past participle said, third person singular says

express something in words

[intransitive only in negatives, transitive] to express an idea, feeling, thought etc using words:
'I'm so tired,' she said.
'Don't cry,' he said softly.
Don't believe anything he says.
say (that)
A spokesman said that the company had improved its safety standards.
I always said I would buy a motorbike when I had enough money.
say how/why/who etc
Did she say what happened?
I would like to say how much we appreciate your hard work.
'Why did she leave?' 'I don't know - she didn't say.'
say something to somebody
What did you say to her?
a terrible/silly/strange etc thing to say
What a silly thing to say!
say hello/goodbye/thank you etc (=say something to greet someone, thank someone etc)
She left without saying goodbye.
say you're sorry (=apologize)
I've said I'm sorry - what more do you want?
say yes/no (to something) (=agree or refuse)
Can I go, Mum? Oh please say yes!
say nothing/anything/something (about something)
He looked as if he was going to say something.
I wished I had said nothing about Jordi.
have anything/nothing/something to say
Does anyone else have anything to say?
Although he didn't say so, it was clear that he was in pain.
What makes you say that (=why do you think that)?
say to do something (=tell someone to do something)
Nina said to meet her at 4.30.
I'd like to say a few words (=make a short speech).
'So what are your plans now?' ' I'd rather not say.'

give information

[transitive not in passive] to give information in the form of written words, numbers, or pictures - used about signs, clocks, letters, messages etc:
The sign said 'Back in 10 minutes'.
The clock said twenty past three.
say (that)
He received a letter saying that the appointment had been cancelled.
say to do something (=gives information about what you should do)
The label says to take one tablet before meals.
say who/what/how etc
The card doesn't even say who sent the flowers.
It says here they have live music.


[transitive usually in progressive] used to talk about what someone means:
What do you think the writer is trying to say in this passage?
So what you're saying is, there's none left.
be saying (that)
Are you saying I'm fat?
I'm not saying it's a bad idea.
All I'm saying is that it might be better to wait a while.

think that something is true

used to talk about something that people think is true
they say/people say/ it is said (that)
They say that she has been all over the world.
It is said that he was a spy during the war.
somebody is said to be something/do something
He's said to be the richest man in the world.
Well, you know what they say - blood's thicker than water.
The rest, as they say, is history.

show/be a sign of something

a) to show clearly that something is true about someone or something's character:
The kind of car you drive says what kind of person you are.
The fact that she never apologized says a lot about (=shows something very clearly) what kind of person she is.
It said a lot for the manager that the team remained confident despite losing (=it showed that he is good).
These results don't say much for the quality of teaching (=they show that it is not very good).
b) to show what someone really is feeling or thinking, especially without using words:
The look on her face said 'I love you'.
something says everything/says it all
His expression said it all.

speak the words of something

[transitive] to speak the words that are written in a play, poem, or prayer:
Can you say that line again, this time with more feeling?


[transitive] to pronounce a word or sound:
How do you say your last name?

suggest/suppose something

[transitive usually in imperative] used when suggesting or supposing that something might happen or be true
... say ...
If we put out, say, twenty chairs, would that be enough?
let's say (that)/just say (that)
Let's say your plan fails, then what?
Just say you won the lottery - what would you do?

say to yourself

to try to persuade yourself that something is true or not true:
I kept saying to myself that this wasn't really happening.
10 spoken

I must say

also I have to say used to emphasize what you are saying:
The cake does look good, I must say.
I have to say I was impressed.
11 spoken

I can't say (that)

used to say that you do not think or feel something:
I can't say I envy her being married to him!
12 spoken

I would say

used for giving your opinion even though other people may not agree:
I'd say he was jealous.
13 spoken

I couldn't say

used when you do not know the answer to something:
I couldn't say who will win.
14 spoken

if I may say so

also if I might say so formal used to be polite when saying something that may embarrass or offend the person you are talking to:
That's just the point, Mr Glover, if I may say so.
15 spoken

having said that

used to say that something is true in spite of what you have just said:
The diet can make you slim without exercise. Having said that, however, exercise is important too.
16 spoken

wouldn't you say?

used to ask someone whether they agree with the statement you have just made:
It seems very unlikely, wouldn't you say?
17 spoken

what do you say?

used to ask someone if they agree with a suggestion:
We could go into partnership - what do you say?
What do you say we all go to a movie?
18 spoken

say no more

used to say that you understand what someone means, although they have not said it directly:
'I saw him leaving her house at 6.30 this morning.' 'Say no more!'
19 spoken

you can say that again!

used to say that you completely agree with someone:
'It's cold in here.' 'You can say that again!'
20 spoken

you said it!

a) used when someone says something that you agree with, although you would not have actually said it yourself because it is not polite:
'I was always stubborn as a kid.' 'You said it!'
b) especially American English used to say that you agree with someone:
'Let's go home.' 'You said it! I'm tired.'
21 spoken

who says?

used to say that you do not agree with a statement, opinion etc:
Who says museum work doesn't pay?
22 spoken

who can say?

also who's to say used to say that nobody can know something:
Who can say what will happen between now and then?
Many women believe that skin cream makes their skin look younger, and who's to say that they're wrong?
23 spoken

you don't say!

used to show you are surprised by what someone has told you - also often used when you are not at all surprised by what someone has told you
24 spoken

say when

used to ask someone to tell you when to stop pouring them a drink or serving them food because they have got enough
25 spoken

say cheese

used to tell people to smile when you are taking their photograph
26 spoken

(just) say the word

used to tell someone that they have only to ask and you will do what they want:
Anywhere you want to go, just say the word.
27 spoken

I'll say this/that (much) for somebody

used when you want to mention something good about someone, especially when you have been criticizing them:
I will say this for Tom - at least he's consistent.
You've got determination - I'll say that for you.
28 spoken

say what you like

especially British English used when giving an opinion that you are sure is correct, even if the person you are talking to might disagree with you:
Say what you like about him, he's a very good writer.
29 spoken

anything/whatever you say

used to tell someone that you agree to do what they want, accept their opinion etc, especially because you do not want an argument
30 spoken

can't say fairer than that

British English used to say that you have made the best offer that you can:
If I win, I'll buy you a drink. Can't say fairer than that.
31 spoken

I wouldn't say no (to something)

used to say that you would like something:
I wouldn't say no to coffee.
32 spoken

I'll say!

used to say yes to a question, in a strong way:
'Was there a big argument?' 'I'll say!'
33 spoken

let's just say

used when you do not want to give a lot of details about something:
Let's just say she wasn't very pleased about it.
34 spoken

shall I/we say

used when you are not quite sure how to describe someone or something:
He is, shall we say, slightly unusual.
35 spoken

what have you got to say for yourself?

used to ask someone for an explanation when they have done something wrong
36 spoken

say what?

informal especially American English used when you did not hear what someone said or when you cannot believe that something is true
37 spoken

I say

British English old-fashioned
a) used to get someone's attention:
I say, don't I know you?
b) used before giving your reaction to something:
'My husband's broken his leg.' 'I say! I'm sorry to hear that.'

say something to somebody's face

informal to criticize someone or say something unpleasant directly to them instead of saying it to someone else:
I knew they wanted me to leave even though they wouldn't say it to my face.

that's not saying much

used to say that it is not surprising that someone or something is better than another person or thing because the other person or thing is so bad:
This version is better than the original but that's not saying much.

something says it all

if something says it all, it clearly shows how someone feels or what a situation is really like:
Her smile said it all.

to say the least

used to say that you could have described something, criticized someone etc a lot more severely than you have:
Jane could have been more considerate, to say the least.

that is to say

used before giving more details or being more exact about something:
They, that's to say Matt and John, were arguing about what to do.

that is not to say

used to make sure the person you are talking to does not think something that is not true:
I'm quite happy in my job but that's not to say I'm going to do it for the rest of my life.

not to say

especially British English used when adding a stronger description of something:
The information is inadequate, not to say misleading.

nothing/something/not much etc to be said for (doing) something

used to say that there are a lot of or not many advantages to something:
There's a lot to be said for taking a few days off now and then.
It was a town with very little to be said for it.

to say nothing of something

used to mention another thing involved in what you have just been talking about:
It wasn't much for three years' work, to say nothing of the money it had cost.

have something to say about something

to be angry about something:
Her father would have something to say about it.

not have much to say for yourself

to not talk very much

what somebody says goes

used to emphasize who is in control in a situation:
My wife wants to go to Italy this year, and what she says goes!

say your piece

to give your opinion about something, especially something you do not like

➔ wouldn't say boo to a goose

at boo2 (3)

; ➔ easier said than done

at easy2 (4)

; ➔ enough said

at enough2 (6)

; ➔ it goes without saying

at go without (2)

; ➔ needless to say

at needless (1)

; ➔ no sooner said than done

at soon (9)

; ➔ not say/breathe a word

at word1 (9)

; ➔ well said

at well1 (13)

; ➔ when all's said and done

at all1 (17)

say, tell, give, ask
You use say when you are mentioning someone's exact words 'Hello,' she said. Someone said, 'Let's go!'Say can be followed by 'that' He said that he was tired. In speech people often leave out 'that' They said there had been a mistake.Say can be followed by 'something', 'anything', 'nothing', or 'so' Did you say something? Nobody dared to say anything. You have to come - Dad said so. It can also be followed by 'goodbye' or 'hello' I'll just go and say hello to David. Apart from these uses, say is not normally followed by an object. For example, it cannot be followed by 'a story', 'a lie', 'some information', or 'an answer'. You tell a story, a joke, a lie, or the truth They told a funny story about their trip. You give information, an order, an instruction, or an answer He gave no reply.!! You do not say a question. You ask a question Can I ask a question? You can say something to someone Has he said something to you? When talking about giving information, it is more usual to say that you tell someone something Clare told us something interesting (NOT said us something...). Can anyone tell me what time it is? (NOT say to me what...) You can tell someone about something Did you tell Lucy about the party? (NOT say to Lucy about...) You can say to do something, but it is more usual to tell someone to do something The teacher told us to open our books (NOT said us/said to us to...).

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