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Related to tell on: tell off
tell on (one)
1. To report one's misdeed or bad behavior to someone in a position of authority or someone who is affected by it. (This person can be specified between "tell" and "on.") We were worried he would tell on us, so we paid him to keep quiet. Ouch, that hurt! I'm telling Mom on you! The whistleblower was treated as a pariah in the industry for telling on his former employer for evading corporate taxes.
2. To begin to show a negative effect that something is having on one. The lack of sleep from having two young children is really telling on Charles lately. The increasing reliance of consumers on mobile devices has begun to tell on the print industry.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
tell someone on someone
to tattle to someone about someone. I'm going to tell your mother on you! I'll tell the teacher on you!
tell on someone
to report someone's bad behavior; to tattle on someone. If you do that again, I'll tell on you! Please don't tell on me. I'm in enough trouble as it is.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Tattle on, inform on, as in Marjorie said she'd tell on him if he pulled her hair again. This seemingly modern term appeared in a 1539 translation of the Bible (I Samuel 27:11): "David saved neither man nor woman ... for fear (said he) lest they should tell on us."
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. To inform some authority that someone has behaved badly or illegally: The janitor told the teacher on me for writing on the desk. We didn't want to tell on our friends for shoplifting. I promised not to tell on my brother for eating cookies before dinner.
2. To have an effect or impact on someone or something: The stress of working long hours began to tell on the store's owner.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.