Definition of tell someone off in English:

tell someone off

phrasal verb

  • 1informal Reprimand or scold someone.

    ‘my parents told me off for coming home late’
    • ‘Somehow he could never tell her off or scold her when she looked at him like that.’
    • ‘Kids no longer quake in the street when a policeman tells them off.’
    • ‘If I told lies I was told off and if I had dared to show my parents up in a shop, I wouldn't have been shouted at - I would have been taken home with nothing.’
    • ‘When I told them off for calling us names and bullying, they became very abusive,’ she said.’
    • ‘Richard tends to be much stricter with Lucie in general and is fed up of being the bad guy who tells Lucie off and reprimands her.’
    • ‘I never told him off for spending time tailoring instead of studying.’
    • ‘Teachers' leaders are now calling for a ban on mobile phones in the classroom because children are using them to text message or speak to their parents as soon as they have been told off.’
    • ‘I am now forced to look for more ingenious ways of telling someone off when they get me mad.’
    • ‘It would be another slight to his poor, terrified parents, who were clearly unable to ever tell him off for fear of the consequences.’
    • ‘I do not suffer fools gladly, but somehow I cannot get myself to tell her off!’
    • ‘Adults also punish children by shouting, telling them off, sending them to their room, and withdrawing privileges.’
    • ‘My psychologist tells me off for thinking like that.’
    • ‘She had to tell me off, otherwise she would be implicitly encouraging the students to bring drinks into the library.’
    • ‘I really should have told her off when I had the chance.’
    • ‘These are the terms this man used to so brilliantly tell us off.’
    • ‘As a matter of fact, it had a very dramatic ending, with me telling him off and storming out of the house, with the kids cheering.’
    • ‘He has pulled my hair on the bus and, recently, he yelled at me so I told him off.’
    • ‘My parents were forever telling me off but I never listened to them.’
    • ‘Once a car stopped and the driver got out and told me off for keeping such a dangerous animal.’
    • ‘He reluctantly agrees, and Susan tells him off.’
    reprimand, rebuke, reproach, scold, admonish, reprove, remonstrate with, chastise, chide, upbraid, berate, take to task, pull up, castigate, lambaste, read someone the riot act, give someone a piece of one's mind, haul over the coals, criticize, censure
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  • 2archaic Assign a member of a group to a particular task.

    ‘there used to be a chap told off every day to fetch us beer’
    • ‘A subaltern and a sergeant were told off to supervise each platoon, any spare officers taking up positions in the rear of the battalion line.’
    • ‘I was told off to work in the trenches.’
    • ‘We were then told off to various points on the outskirts of the village.’