tell (someone or something) apart

tell (someone or something) apart

To be able to discern or distinguish two or more people or things that appear or seem similar. This one is real, and this one is the counterfeit—you can tell them apart by the small holographic mark at the top corner of the genuine document. Even our parents sometimes have trouble telling me and my brother apart.
See also: apart, tell

tell people or things apart

to distinguish one from another. I can't tell Bob and Bill apart. I find it easy to tell apart Bill and Bob. The two cakes look different, but in taste, I can't tell this one and that one apart.
See also: apart, people, tell, thing

tell things apart

to distinguish one thing or a group of things from another thing or group of things. This one is gold, and the others are brass. Can you tell them apart? Without their labels, I can't tell them apart.
See also: apart, tell, thing

tell apart

Discern or distinguish, as in It's hard to tell the twins apart. [First half of 1900s]
See also: apart, tell

tell apart

v.
To perceive something as being different or distinct from something else: I couldn't tell apart the real $20 bill from the counterfeit one. The twins were identical, and we couldn't tell them apart.
See also: apart, tell