Decir and Contar are both translated as to tell. It can often be confusing for students to know which one to use.
Spanish verb Contar
We use contar when what is told has details, e.g. a story, a joke, an anecdote. For example, if we ask someone to tell us about their day we would generally ask:
The answer to this question could be quite detailed, for example:
Pues por la mañana he tenido una reunión con el jefe, luego he llamado a varios clientes y he cerrado algunos contratos. A medio día he comido con Lola en la cafetería de enfrente de la oficina y .... etc
Well, in the morning I had a meeting with my boss, then I called some clients and closed some contracts. At midday I ate with Lola in the cafe opposite the office and... etc.
Spanish verb Decir
If what we want to know is something specific, an individual item of information, then we would use decir:
The answer to this would be a simply informative reply, for example:
A las dos y media.
At two thirty.
In indirect speech we can use both decir and contar:
However, the second example using contar, the implication is that the speaker is giving this information as a new piece of information for the listener and/or that it is more "gossipy" information.
When the verb decir works as a command followed by a subordinate clause with que ... the verb contar cannot be used. For example:
This would be incorrect:
See also Different meanings of the Spanish verb contar
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