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What is the Past Tense of Say

“What do you say to that?” This is one of the countless ways that we can use the versatile verb “say” in English. This word is among the most commonly used and important words for beginners to learn, but sometimes causes problems as students try to figure out the difference between it and similar words such as “talk” and “announce” for instance.

The past tense of say is “said” and the past participle is also “said”.

What is the past tense of “say”?

Say (verb):

(1) To utter words in order to convey ideas, information, opinions, feelings and more

(2) (Hypothetical) To make an assumption that allows further consideration to be taken

  • Infinitive                      to say
  • Simple Past                 said
  • Past Participle             said

Conjugation Table for the verb ‘say’

 pronounInfinitiveSimple PastPresent PerfectPresent Continuous
Isaysaidhave saidam saying
You (sing.)saysaidhave saidare saying
He/She/Itsayssaidhas saidis saying
Wesaysaidhave saidare saying
You (pl.)saysaidhave saidare saying
Theysaysaidhave saidare saying

Example Sentences for the verb ‘say’

(1) To utter words in order to convey ideas, information, opinions, feelings and more

  • Did you hear what I just said?
  • I said my goodbyes, and then departed for London
  • What he said was the he is a vegetarian and so can’t eat meat

(2) (Hypothetical) To make an assumption that allows further consideration to be taken

  • Let’s say I break my leg, how will I get up the stairs?
  • Okay, say you are telling the truth, what do you want me to do about it?

Focus: Past Tense of Say

The verb “say” is one that every learner needs. Before teachers get into the tricky business of separating “say” from other words meaning similar things, students need first to master the different tenses, including the past tenses. Our example sentences below use the following tenses.

  • Simple past
  • Present perfect
  • Past continuous
  • Past perfect

Simple Past for the verb ‘say’

  • He said to his teacher that although he didn’t have the homework in-hand, he had actually done it the night before, but the teacher didn’t believe him
  • What you said yesterday was totally unacceptable!
  • I said ‘hello’ when I saw him walking towards me in the corridor

Present Perfect for the verb ‘say’

  • I have said to you many times that you shouldn’t go into the forest by yourself
  • You have said to me before that you are afraid of spiders, so why do you now want to get a pet tarantula?
  • They have said that they unless we raise their salaries, they will refuse to work

Past Continuous for the verb ‘say’

  • As I was saying, we should think of some ideas for Dad’s surprise birthday party
  • She was saying on the phone how much she missed her husband, and he couldn’t help but shed a tear
  • Oh, hello, we were just saying that we think the school needs to install an elevator for injured and disabled students and faculty members

Past Perfect for the verb ‘say’

  • You had said to them that it was a bad idea, but did they listen?
  • He had said many times that he would refuse to come with us on a rollercoaster, but in the end we convinced him to come

How to Use “Said” in a Sentence

“Said” is the past tense and past participle of “say” and it’s often used in narrative writing. Let’s look at some examples:

  1. She said she would meet me at the coffee shop.
  2. He said nothing but nodded in response.
  3. The teacher said the homework was due tomorrow.

In negative sentences:

  1. He said he didn’t like broccoli.
  2. They said they weren’t going to the party.

Understanding the Verb “Say”

Originating from Old Norse “segja,” “say” primarily refers to the verbal expression of something. It’s one of the most frequently used verbs for reporting speech in English.

Phrasal Verbs with “Say”

“Say” contributes to several phrasal verbs:

  • Say aloud: To vocalize one’s thoughts.
    • Sometimes, I say things aloud to better remember them.
    • Can you say that aloud for the class?
  • Say for certain: To state something with confidence.
    • I can’t say for certain if he’ll come to the party.
    • She said for certain that she’d join us for dinner.
  • Say goodbye: To bid farewell.
    • I hate to say goodbye.
    • They said goodbye at the airport.

Common Mistakes

Here are some typical mistakes made with “say”:

  • Incorrect: He says he is coming yesterday.
  • Correct: He said he was coming yesterday.

  • Incorrect: She say she likes chocolate.
  • Correct: She says she likes chocolate.


The verb “say” is indeed one of the cornerstones of English language learning. This simple yet powerful word plays a vital role in our daily conversations and written communication.

Understanding how to use “say”, “said”, and “saying” in different tenses will enhance not only your English proficiency but also your confidence in communication.

As we’ve shown in this article, with plenty of practice and examples, mastering this crucial verb can be a breeze. Keep practicing, and you’ll soon be saying your way to English fluency!

Further resources below

Now that you’ve got a handle on the past tense of ‘say’, why not dive deeper into the world of English verb tenses? We have an array of resources on our website to guide you through every nuance.

Explore our comprehensive collection of past tense resources in the table and links below, and enrich your understanding further.

Share your thoughts and experiences with learning English tenses in the comments section below.

Your tips and tricks could be invaluable to other readers on the same journey. Remember, learning is a shared experience, so don’t hesitate to pass this article along to others in your circle learning English. Together, let’s perfect our grasp of the English language!

We also have a full list of irregular verbs from A – Z on the site which you can access from the link here.

You can check other past tense words and our past tense resources by clicking on the links in the table below and in the resource list below that.

Table 2: Table of Links for irregular Past Tense Verbs

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We also have articles and worksheets which we will link examples of below, and if you need more you can try the search box.

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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