The verbs “mention” and “say” are similar in meaning because they’re both concerned with expressing information using words. However, the two aren’t interchangeable.
Many writers feel uncertain about when to use “say” and when “mention” is more appropriate. Our quick guide should clear up any confusion so you can confidently use “mention” and “say” correctly in your writing.
Say (to Speak Words, Suggest Something, or State a View or Belief)
As a verb, “say” can be used in a number of ways. Most commonly, it’s a dialogue tag used to indicate direct speech:
I smile and say, “Hello.”
“I’m very sorry,” said Joe.
It can also mean to indicate or suggest something without words:
The clock says five-thirty.
The look on his face said he was frightened.
Another use of “say” is to state a view or belief:
Attenborough says when science looks at the wonders of the world, they become more wonderful.
In a 2021 interview, Thunberg said the climate crisis wasn’t being treated as an emergency.
In the same interview, she says that Swedish people are relatively uninterested in celebrities.
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This third meaning of “say” is the one that overlaps with “mention.”
Mention (Refer to)
To mention something means to briefly refer to or make a comment about it:
The agent mentioned that the kitchen was less than a year old.
The author mentions in the Acknowledgements that proofreaders are important.
In most instances where the word “mention” is used, it could be replaced with “say” without affecting the meaning of the sentence. So, we could change the above sentences to:
The agent said that the kitchen was less than a year old.
The author says in the Acknowledgements that proofreaders are important.
However, the reverse is not true. In other words, “say” cannot usually be replaced with “mention.” This is because “mention” doesn’t suggest the same degree of importance as “say.” Mentioning something (rather than saying it) indicates that it isn’t the main thing the speaker or writer wants to express. It’s more of an extra point.
If Greta Thunberg only mentioned that the climate crisis wasn’t being treated as an emergency, her comments wouldn’t carry the same sense of urgency. On the other hand, her remark about Swedish people’s attitude toward famous people is less consequential, so it would be fine to switch “says” for “mentions” in that example.
Summary: Mentioned or Said?
As we have seen, “mention” and “say” are both verbs related to communicating information. Although most instances of “mention” could be replaced with “say,” the words aren’t always interchangeable. This is because “mention” has a narrower meaning, so it should only be used for relatively less essential material.
Hopefully, you now feel confident about choosing between “mentions” and “says” when you discuss other people’s ideas in your writing. To be sure your work is free of grammatical errors, typos, and wrongly used words, it’s best to have it proofread by a professional. Our team is available 24/7 and will return your document, with corrections and feedback, within a day. Find out more today with a free trial.