How do I translate tell as in the title? It has a slightly different meaning than, for example, as in tell me a story (erzählen). The story is directly what you tell, while the song is what you tell about. (And also different from tell me about a song you like.)

  • @Jan In the list you linked there is no way to tell (no pun intended) which translation of "tell" is good for "stories" and which one is good for "songs" (using the examples of the question). They both fall into the category of "telling someone something". Also, I believe my example ("tell me a song") is quite a rare use of "tell", hard to find in online dictionaries.
    – geodude
    Sep 30, 2015 at 19:26
  • I linked the list because I know the correct word is rather high up there. But I was also hoping you would go through the list, ideally think what the different words meant and maybe narrow down the possibilities from everything to would it be correct to use X because it also means Y which can convey a similar meaning?
    – Jan
    Sep 30, 2015 at 19:29
  • @Jan Alright, let me rephrase the question... Is erzählen correct in this case? Because it usually means tell as in tell me a story.
    – geodude
    Sep 30, 2015 at 19:32
  • 1
    @Matthias sagen is by far the more idiomatic choice imho.
    – Jan
    Sep 30, 2015 at 19:43

1 Answer 1


You use sagen:

Sag' mir ein Lied, das dir gefällt.
Tell me a song you like.

Sag' mir, was du letztes Wochenende gemacht hast.
Tell me what you did last weekend.

In a rather formal context, you can also use nennen (to name):

Nennen Sie mir bitte Ihren Namen.
Tell me your name, please.

Nennen Sie drei Ihrer Stärken.
Name three of your strengths.

  • 3
    These are the two options I'd recommend, too. Only that I think that Nenne mir ein Lied... would be the more idiomatic (and by no means formal) translation for Tell me a song.
    – Matthias
    Sep 30, 2015 at 19:38
  • 2
    I disagree with the notion of nennen being more idiomatic. I can only really imagine people using sagen, and would reserve nennen entirely for the formal option.
    – Jan
    Sep 30, 2015 at 20:48
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    I think it depends on the region. Living in Southern Germany, I hardly ever hear anybody say "Nenne mir…" in an oral (and relaxed) conversation.
    – Œlrim
    Sep 30, 2015 at 20:52
  • Just to add my two cents to the discussion. I'd go with "Sag mal ein Lied". First, "sagen" is way more idiomatic than "nennen" to my mind (regarding this example). Second, I wouldn't add that they should say it to me. This is implicit.
    – Em1
    Oct 2, 2015 at 9:53

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