"Il s'appelle comment ?"

Translation:What is his name?

March 11, 2013

This discussion is locked.


Literally, this is "How does he call himself". Which is not being accepted by Duolingo, sadly.


Later the better. "How does he call himself" is being accepted now


You may like that but it is really not considered a good translation. Put it in a natural expression in English which conveys the same message as the French. English speakers do not go around saying "how does he call himself?" when they want to know someone's name.


So in French, "Il s'appelle comment?" is natural to ask the third person? Do you also ask someone "Vous vous applez comment?" or "Tu t'appeles comment?"

What about "Comment t'appeles-tu" or "Comment vous applez vous?"...


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 ?

Informal/spoken French:

  • 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.


Very useful, merci!!


Bonjour n6zs, In the UK we say "What is he called" at least as often as "What is his name"....but Duo doesn't accept that translation :[


What about: "How is he called?" Is it wrong because it dose not translate back to the original French phrase?


Because it's an idiomatic expression. It's not supposed to be literal.


I think literal translation is not natural. It's more common to say. What's his name.


Would "Comment il s'appelle?" still be acceptable?


Yea. "Comment s'appelle-t-il?" would also be correct.


This raises the question: is "Comment est-ce que il s'apelle ?" also correct?


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.


That's right in theory. But in fact, you'll hear lots of people using this "Comment est-ce que". I live in Belgium and people say "Comment est-ce qu'il s'appelle" or "Comment est-ce que ça fonctionne?"


Very true, but since Duo intends to teach you proper French, we do not enter improper French translations.


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:

je me
tu te
il/elle/on se
nous nous
vous vous
ils/elles se

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


what does the s stand for in this sentence?


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.


I am confused as to why there is a se, when the tips and notes section also gives 'le' and 'la' for third person. Probably a silly question but I'm not getting it!


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.


isn't 'what's he called?' also a correct translation?


would "ils s'appellent comment" be pronounced the same way? or does that sentence not work for another reason?


Yes, singular and plural are homophones. Duo's system does not always recognize them because it compares your version with the original, written version. I reported it to the developers so that they add the plural version. Thanks.


why can't you translate this as 'what's he called?'


Not clear why "What is he called?" is not acceptable


No more am I. Certainly "calling" is referred to, but "names" are not.


I just had an email from Duo informing me that "What is he called" is now an accepted translation, hurrah for small victories!



Should "He calls her how?" or "What does he call her" be correct too?


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.


Now "comment" is what or how. I dont undersrsnd this! I got it correct but could someone please advise?


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?")


Just wondering, would "Comment se-il appelle" be correct ?


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?"


How about the est-ce que form, would "Comment est-ce que il s'appelle ?" also be correct?


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".


It is correct - but don't forget the clash between [que] and [il] : to avoid it, we say "Comment est-ce qu'il s'appelle ?". :-)


If (as one of the comments below indicates) this phrase is informal, then the informal translation 'what's he called?' should be allowed. It is normal English spoken usage.


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.


Shouldn't "what does he call himself" be accepted?


Is it correct top say " quel est son nom?"


Yes, correct and accepted.


Could you reconfigure comment t'appelle tu, like this? tu t'appelle comment?


If you add an S to "appelle" and use the required hyphen, here are the variants:

  • comment t'appelles-tu ? (formal)
  • comment tu t'appelles ? (standard)
  • tu t'appelles comment ? (in speech)


How is that "what is his name?" It said below the french word (where they put translation hints) that it was "he himself is calling how." It didn't make any sense, but I put that in, and it said it was "what is his name?" Thanks.

  • 1685

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.


Can you also say "Comment il s'appelle"?


Yes, you can, and in more formal French: "comment s'appelle-t-il ?"


what do the hell do you mean by stop the clutter ? if we have problem then why are u having a problem


The idea is to read the comments first and if you don't find the answer to your question there, feel free to post it. The clutter comes from people who do not bother to read the comments and post the same question that has already been answered over and over.


Can't you put C'est?


Where would you put it?


Yeah you're right. i guess I can't put it anywhere


With a big stretch, you could say "c'est quoi son nom ?" but be aware that it is spoken (ugly) French.


I don't get, (ugly) Is that something rude in French?


My definition of "ugly" French is when the grammar is butchered and/or when the sound is awful.

In this case, it sounds like loose language from a non-literate person.


Why is the word comment at the end of this sentence instead of the start like in comment ca va


It is a matter of register of speech. Overall in French there are 2 or 3 ways of asking the same question:

  • formal: comment s'appelle-t-il ?
  • informal/in speech: comment il s'appelle ? or il s'appelle comment ?


@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.


Added, thanks!


If comment means how then why isn't the translation:

His name is how?


Please read the comments for your answer.


"His name is what" gonged wrong? Why is that?


From the pronunciation, how does one know il from ils?


Context will tell.


He's called what?


X what does he call himself


"He is called what?" was marked wrong...although it sounds clunky in English, it's a literal translation of the French, and means the same thing as "what is his name". So shouldn't it be marked correct?


Sitesurf: I suppose it is wrong to say: "How is he called" because it is in the past tense. What do you think.


".... is he called" is not past tense but passive. You can use "what is he called?" (present passive).

The past passive form would be "what was he called?".

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