I'm having trouble knowing when to use って or 言った when I want to say someone said something (past tense).

Naturally, since it is past tense, I always want to use 言った. But having watched many j-drama episodes, had voice convos with Japanese people (mostly females) on LINE, and watched Japanese people broadcast their webcams on TwitCast (again, mostly females), I seem to hear って a lot more than 言った when someone is referring to something that was said.

If I had to guess, it seems that って is used to refer to things that are currently being said, being relayed, or was RECENTLY said in the past. Whereas 言った is used for something that was definitely said in the past, and not used for something that was necessarily said recently.

Can anyone share any insight on when to use one or the other, when its okay to use both, or when its just not natural to use one or the other? Anything gender-specific I should be aware of?

It would help immensely with my listening and speaking skills!

Thank you so much!

  • 4
    I think your premise is a bit off. って is basically short for って言った, where 言った could be any other tense, implied Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 1:18

1 Answer 1


Formally, you use 「ナニナニと言{い}いました。」.
This is the original/basic one and I think you know it.

Manager said don't use that PC.

In order to make a quote to be sounds more like a quote, you can use って instead of , like「ナニナニって言いました」 / ナニナニって言いました」

As you said about drama, friends and friends don't talk formally, it will then be 「ナニナニって言った」. Because you don't want to repeat and repeat, keep saying 言った, it becomes「ナニナニって」.

She said she doesn't want to eat.

More examples:

  1. Quoting what other said:

    although you said you want, ...

  2. Quoting what other said:

    "It's fine..." "Fine? it's bleeding!"

  3. Asking what is...: *

    What is IMAX?

  4. To start a topic of a subject (usually a person) *

    John, you studying Japanese?

(* is not about "who is saying something")

Hope it helps ^_^


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