Chinese synonyms can be confusing, and it's hard for Chinese learners to tell one from the other. Don't worry! In this article, we're talking about the differences between "说" (shuō) and "告诉" (gào sù), both of which mean "to tell" in some way.
First up, "告诉" (gào sù) is to convey a message or information to others, while "说" (shuō) is simply used to express one's ideas. Therefore, "告诉" (gào sù) can be followed by double-objects, but "说" (shuō) cannot.
nǐ qù gào sù xiǎo wáng lái tīng diàn huà ba
Could you tell Xiao Wang to answer the phone?
Secondly, when used in a 把 sentence, "告诉" (gào sù) can be followed by an object indicating a person, which is not applicable to "说" (shuō).
wǒ men bǎ zhè jiàn shì de zhēn xiàng gào sù tā ba
Let's tell him the truth.
Thirdly, "说" (shuō) also means "to explain" or "to criticize", which is not applicable to "告诉" (gào sù).
lǎo shī, nín néng shuō yi shuō zhè gè cí shì shén me yì sī ma
Could you please explain what the word means, Sir?
zhāng lì hǎo jǐ tiān méi lái shàng kè, lǎo shī zhèng shuō tā ne
The teacher is criticizing Zhang Li, who skipped classes in the past few days.
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