Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

tell story English

Have you ever heard somebody telling a story and use other words to describe what somebody else said?

Have you ever considered using any of these words in English but felt unsure exactly how to do so?

If you have ever listened to how natives describe somebody else talking, it is rarely a direct quote or them using the word “said”.

We’re going to look into this, understand what other words work well in everyday conversation, and break through any confusion on this way of telling a story.

Here’s a question that perfectly highlights this confusion, as it’s a common occurrence.


When do we use the word “go” instead of “say”? He said or he says, people say he goes. I’m so confused!

Can you help me to understand which to use?



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An Informal Approach Fits With Everyday Conversation

When introducing in quotes what somebody else says, you want to give an introduction.

We have all these weird words to use instead of “say” in English.

You want to show that this is what somebody else said.

In a formal conversation or setting, you might directly quote the person.

In everyday conversation though, an informal approach and language fits much better.

This is the way that natives would approach this, and so you want to know how to use it as well.


Using Informal Language To Tell A Story

When you are building up and describing what somebody said, there are other ways to do this.

You can build up and tell a story in a more informal way, and this makes it more approachable language than just directly quoting somebody you are talking to.

These three phrases convey “say” much better in conversation when you want to quote somebody.

  1. Go/Goes: It may not seem like it fits, but it’s what natives use. We use it in present or past, and both are okay when it comes to everyday conversation. You might say “goes” or “went” or just stick with “go” in present tense. Any of these work, and they help to pull somebody into a story. This introduces a new verb tense called historical present to talk about something in the past, but it makes the story more real and easy to relate to.
    1. Then she would go “I’m not really into coffee so I don’t want to go to a coffee shop.”
  2. Like: We’re replaying “say” with “like” if you’re introducing a quote. You’re talking about what somebody said and you’re making it more informal with the word “like”. Natives use this all the time, and so you will hear it in conversation often.  This is definitely not for a formal or professional setting though. This is intended for everyday casual conversation.
    1. Then she was like “I don’t want to be difficult, but can we pick a different meeting spot?”
  3. All: You’re using the “be verb” again, but you use all in place of “say”. This almost has the connotation of a valley girl and is an extremely casual way of talking. You’re still describing what somebody was saying like a quote, but it’s a very informal way of talking about it.
    1. She was all “I don’t really want to go to dinner there.”

Though these may not seem like they make sense in theory, these phrases all work to describe a quote or what somebody said.



There are plenty of ways to talk about what somebody has to say.

When you are talking about a quote or telling a story about what somebody said, these three words and phrases can help.

Though they may not make sense in theory, you hear these used all the time in conversation in English.

Try them out and see how they work for you, because these are a great way of making connections and talking like the natives too.


If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 

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