tell by

tell (someone or something) by (something)

To be able to discern or identify someone or something by some trait, characteristic, aspect, etc. You can always tell tourists by their big backpacks and tendency to photograph absolutely everything. I could tell by the style of film that I would really like it.
See also: by, tell
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

tell someone or something by something

to identify someone or something by something. You can tell Jim by the old-fashioned shoes he wears. I can tell the new season's fashions by how short the skirts are.
See also: by, tell
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
See also: