tell upon


tell upon (phrasal verb)
/tɛl əˈpɒn/


  • to have an effect on (someone or something), often a negative one.
  • to reveal or disclose something about (someone or something).
  • to inform on or betray (someone) to an authority.

Example Sentence

  1. The years of hard work and stress began to tell upon his health, leaving him fatigued and unwell.
  2. The lack of rest began to tell upon his performance at work, causing him to make several critical mistakes.
  3. Her pale face and trembling hands told upon her recent illness, making it clear to everyone that she wasn’t fully recovered.
  4. He was hesitant to tell upon his friend about breaking the rules, fearing the consequences of being labeled a snitch.
  5. The child’s tear-streaked face and disheveled appearance told upon her hardships, moving everyone who saw her.

Origin and History

“Tell upon” emerged as part of English’s evolution, influenced by its Germanic roots. By the Middle English period, phrasal verbs like “tell upon” became more prevalent.

Structure and Function

“Tell upon” combines the verb “tell” with the prepositional particle “upon,” creating a meaning that is not straightforward from the individual parts.

Meaning and Usage

“Tell upon” means to have a noticeable, often negative, effect on someone or something. For instance, constant stress that “tells upon” a person visibly affects them.

Theories of Origin

Germanic Influence

The Germanic roots of English contributed to the formation of phrasal verbs like “tell upon,” where similar verb-particle constructions were common.

Evolution of Meaning

“Tell” originally meant to count or enumerate, but it evolved to include meanings related to reporting or conveying information. When combined with “upon,” it came to mean impact or effect.

Modern Usage

Today, “tell upon” is less frequently used but is understood to indicate a significant impact, often showing signs of wear, stress, or effect.

Share your opinions

What's on your mind?