Remember that there are different constructions for such questions, depending on the register of speech used:
- Comment s'appelle-t-il ?
- Comment t'appelles-tu ?
- Comment vous appelez-vous ?
- Il s'appelle comment ? OR comment il s'appelle ?
- Tu tappelles comment ? OR comment tu t'appelles ?
- Vous vous appelez comment ? OR comment vous vous appelez ?
Also note that the spelling of the verb can change for pronunciation purposes, with one or a double L.
All of these have alternatives looking like the English way of asking for someone's name:
- Quel est son nom ?
- Quel est ton nom ?
- Quel est votre nom ?
Thank you so much for the thorough correction as usual! I didn't even realize the spelling changes for pronunciation's sake! I think I should stick with "Comment vous appelez-vous?" such as "Comment allez-vous?" because I don't want to be rude to use informal question to offend any French person.
No, for three reasons:
"comment" is an interrogative word and "est-ce que" is also an interrogative phrase. In proper French, you do not use 2 interrogative words to start a question. In this case "est-ce que" is redundant.
"que" must be elided in front of a word starting with a vowel sound: "qu'il"
"s'appeler" has 2 Ps.
Are the following statements right? "tu s'appelles comment?" - what is your name? vous s'appellez comment?- what is your name elles s'appellent comment elles-memes?- what is their name? or what are their names? ils s'appellent comment eux-memes?- what is their name or what are their names?
Not all of them: reflexive pronouns change with the person:
so, the question becomes:
- je m'appelle
- tu t'appelles
- il s'appelle
- elle s'appelle
- on s'appelle
- nous nous appelons
- vous vous appelez
- ils s'appellent
- elles s'appellent
It comes from "se", which is the reflexive personal pronoun for the third person, i.e the equivalent of "himself, herself, itself or themselves".
They're more used in Latin languages than in English - English which uses more phrasal verbs (= verbs with a following up / on / in / off / etc.):
Il lave ses vêtements = He's washing his clothes
Il se lave = literally "He's washing himself" = He washes up
"Il s'appelle François" comes from "Il se appelle", which must become "s'appelle" to avoid the vowel clash.
You can see it entirely with a synonym of "s'appeler", which is "se nommer":
- "Il se nomme François".
Which is kinda stupid when you think about it, because not only did your parents choose to call you something, but also most of the time other people will call you by your name... Unless you're drunk, full of yourself, a bit crazy, just mad at yourself,... :-)
I think this is how they say, "His name is.." in French.. Other languages have a different way of saying this. In Chinese they say, "I am..." (literally translated). Lots of Chinese people say, "I am...." when they are introducing themselves instead of "My name is..."
Anyway, some people change their name to something else than what their parents named them at birth. For example, one guy's parents named him Robert and he changed his name to Bob, so I say to people, "His name is Robert but he calls himself Bob". Everybody called a certain guy "Doc" because he knew how to fix everything but his real name was "Lloyd". On a TV show, everybody called this boy, "Spider" but his real name was David. In fact nobody even knew his real name. In French, though, "He calls himself...." is how they say, "His name is..." Normally in English people say, "My name is..." Sometimes people say, "Call me....." For example, if the woman's name is Margaret, maybe she'd say, "You can call me Maggie. When I was a little kid, my dad's name was Lester, and this guy my dad was working for was always calling him Leslie. I said to my dad, "Your name is Lester and he's calling you Leslie". My dad just laughed and said, "I don't care what he calls me as long as he calls me for dinner." They both laughed.
This is a reflexive verb, where "se" means "himself".
There are a great many reflexive verbs in French, some of them are pronominal (when the verb's action bears on the subject) and some of them are "fake", with other meanings, notably passive meanings. Later on in the tree, you will get a full lesson on reflexive verbs.
Back a quarter century to French 1. Mme. Gray's first day of class got us to be able to say our first name. She had a plus Garfield toy. She said something like, "Bonjour, je m'appelle Mme Gray." Then she took out a name sticker and wrote Mme Gray, Madame le professeur.
Then she pointed at the plus cat and asked the class. "Comment s'appelle t-il.".
Later I was warned with threats of divine retribution against ever under any circumstances vouvoyer-ing anyone whose name you do not know and thus if you didn't not want to get struck down by a lightening bolt, the only way to ask someone his name was to ask "Comment vous appellez-vous."
Imagine my surprise of the Almighty's indifference in Montréal Canada being asked "Comment tu t'appelles?".
And then later, when I would try to brush up on French by watching DVDs in French with English subtitles (which is quasi effective), having a deserter from a Roman Legion sometime after Hadrian built his wall saying "On m'appelle" (I am called) rather than Je m'appelle.)
If you can't trust your high school French teacher, then can we really trust anyone? about anything? ever?
As far as I am concerned, I would tend to approve of any French teacher to teach proper French, as Mrs Gray did. Because she gave you the tools to understand the language and then learning how it can be adapted or distorted is easier.
About the Legion, I believe that "on m'appelle" meant that the guy was given a name that might not have been his own, like a nickname of some sort. This would be the best way to mean it if you were in the same situation.
That's not a possible translation.
The "se" here, although being a third person pronoun, is a reflexive one, as in "your reflection" in a mirror, one's own image, literally "one-/him-/herself".
So it means it can only refer to the subject of the verb, i.e. in this example "Il" / "He" : "What does he call himself ?"
If it meant "What does he call her ?", it would be another pronoun in French, i.e. the regular translation for "her" as direct object, which is "la" : "Comment il l'appelle ?" (of course, the "la" becomes "l' " in front of "appelle", to avoid vowel clash).
The only other possibility with a "se" is when the verb and its pronoun are reciprocal (as opposed to reflexive, explained above), i.e. an English equivalent of "each other" rather than "oneself". But then you must have a plural (or the idea of plural):
"Comment ils s'appellent ?" = either "What are their names ?" (literally "How do they call themselves?"), OR "How do they call each other ?".
"On s'appelle demain ?" = "On se téléphone demain ?" = "We call each other tomorrow ?"
Still, a "se" can never mean "her" or "him" alone.
The most common word order would be "Comment s'appelle-t-il?" ("How does he call himself?", that is "what is his name?") But, you can also say "He calls himself how?" ("Il s'appelle comment?")
That's a bit like saying in English: "His name is what?" or "You're going where?" (As opposed to "Where are you going?")
You can't separate the personal pronoun from its verb to form questions.
here the verb is "s'appeler" (from "appeler", call, and "se", oneself).
When you ask questions using the formal inversion "verb + subject", you must keep the verbal group together:
- "Il part en vacances" --- question: "Part-il en vacances?" (Is he going on holiday?)
-"Il appelle tous les jours" --- question: "Appelle-t-il tous les jours?" (Does he call everyday?). You must know by now that the "-t-" structure is just there to avoid the vowel clash between [appelle] and [il], to make the liaison, make it easier and sound prettier.
- "Il s'appelle Marc" --- "Comment s'appelle-t-il?".
It's good to know, but - unless you need to learn French for diplomatic or other formal reasons - just focus on the simple, informal way to make questions because we all talk like that: "Il s'appelle comment?"
After 2 syllable interrogative words (comment, pourquoi, lequel/laquelle...), you should avoid "est-ce que".
This form is often used, but not recommended because you don't need it and it makes your sentence stylistically 'heavy'.
But you might use it with "où, quand, qui, que".
Sometimes they ask for direct translations, and sometimes they ask for English equivalents, but they do not make that clear. Sometimes they will give you an incorrect answer for providing a direct translations and sometimes for not. Sometimes the direct translations they ask for are not the way anyone would convey such an idea in English.
You're over thinking it. In French (and other languages) saying "He calls himself how?" or "How does he call himself?" is the equivalent of what we say in English (What is his name?). It only sounds weird because that's not how we are used to saying it but it is the same thing.
@sitesurf, Thank you for going out of your way to answer my questions on Duolingo. Learning a new language is such a challenge, and i cant appreciate you enough for all your efforts in taking the time and effort to explain the nuances and for having extraordinary patience with my non-stop questions.
I and other, I am sure, have learned a lot from you.