tell (someone or something) from (someone or something else)

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tell (someone or something) from (someone or something else)

1. To be able to discern or distinguish some thing as being distinct and unique compared to something else. It's very difficult to tell the real paintings from the counterfeits, but there are a few things we can look for to be sure. Because of my color blindness, I can't tell shades of red from shades of green. The princess dressed so plainly that you couldn't tell her from an ordinary citizen.
2. To be able to perceive, recognize, or understand something from some piece or amount of evidence. In this usage, the noun or pronoun between "tell" and "from" is sometimes relocated to the end of the clause. What's wrong? I can tell you're upset from the tone in your voice. Well, we can tell from these markings that the herd is moving towards the north.
See also: something, tell
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

tell something from something

to know something because of something, such as evidence, signs, experience, etc. I can tell that she's lying from the way she holds her eyebrows. I can't tell anything from what you told me.
See also: tell

tell someone from someone else

 and tell something from something else
to distinguish one from another. I can't tell Chuck from Roger. They look so much alike. I can't tell orange from yellow.
See also: else, tell

tell something from something else Go to tell someone from someone

See also: else, go, tell, to
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

tell from

To perceive something as being different or distinct from something else: I couldn't tell the homemade cookies from the ones that were bought at the store.
See also: tell
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.
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