tell (someone or something) apart(redirected from tell them 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.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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.
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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Discern or distinguish, as in It's hard to tell the twins apart. [First half of 1900s]
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.
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.
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.