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’
    • ‘Kids no longer quake in the street when a policeman tells them off.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘These are the terms this man used to so brilliantly tell us off.’
    • ‘He has pulled my hair on the bus and, recently, he yelled at me so I told him off.’
    • ‘Adults also punish children by shouting, telling them off, sending them to their room, and withdrawing privileges.’
    • ‘When I told them off for calling us names and bullying, they became very abusive,’ she said.’
    • ‘She had to tell me off, otherwise she would be implicitly encouraging the students to bring drinks into the library.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘My psychologist tells me off for thinking like that.’
    • ‘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 really should have told her off when I had the chance.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Somehow he could never tell her off or scold her when she looked at him like that.’
    • ‘He reluctantly agrees, and Susan tells him off.’
    • ‘Once a car stopped and the driver got out and told me off for keeping such a dangerous animal.’
    • ‘I do not suffer fools gladly, but somehow I cannot get myself to tell her off!’
    • ‘I never told him off for spending time tailoring instead of studying.’
    • ‘My parents were forever telling me off but I never listened to them.’
    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’
    • ‘We were then told off to various points on the outskirts of the village.’
    • ‘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.’