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to say, to tell, to speak

👉🏽To express these 3 verbs correctly takes some clarification on when you should use each one. Simply knowing the definitions can create some confusion when trying to apply them in conversation.


👉🏽PARLER - to speak

Use parler when you want to talk about speaking a language, the act of having a conversation, the state of your speech. Here are some examples...

  • je parle quelques langues dont le français et l’anglais- I speak a few languages including French and English

  • je parle toujours à ma famille - I always speak to my family

  • il parle très doucement - he speaks very softly

👉🏽DIRE- to say

You should use dire to discuss specific situations where something is being said (presently) or was said (past).

Usually, it involves reflexive pronouns in reference to more than one person talking, so make sure you are well versed before using dire. For example...

  • il m’a dit que le magasin était fermé - he told me the store was closed

  • tu as dit quoi ? - what did you say?

  • je dis ça tout le temps! - I say that all the time!

  • tu dis 'bonjour' trop souvent - you say 'hi' too often

👉🏽RACONTER- to tell

This is the most specific of the three, and it's best used in the past tense because raconter refers to story telling or recounting events.

In French, the phrase raconter une histoire, means to tell a story but has a 2nd meaning: to tell a lie.

  • il m'a raconté une histoire - he told me a story (lie)

  • je te raconterai ma journée - I will tell you about my day


Have any questions about this lesson? 🤔

Let me know in the comments below & I'll answer👇🏽

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