In addition to what is called the "personal a," verbs that initiate an action or suggest movement toward something are also followed by "a." For example, "ir a la escuela" = "to go to school," "comenzar a correr" = "to start to run," "aprender a nadar" = "to learn to swim."
I just found this: "its purpose is to introduce a specific, known person or people as the direct object of a sentence -- usually done with a name but could also be a title."
Vi la casa. I saw the house. (Not a specific or known person, no personal a).
"Vi a Maria. I saw Maria. (Specific, known person needs the a.)
Vi a mi abuela. (Specific, known person needs the a)."
This is all on this SpanishDict page, with the explanation given by "Kiwi-Girl": http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/275072/personal-a-or-no-personal-a
OK, I'll bite. What verb were you taught to use instead - telefonear, convocar?
To answer your question, yes, llamar is the commonly used verb for calling someone. Note that llamarse means "to be called". So, me llamo Olweg means "I am called Olweg." It's the same verb, but the pronominal form you were taught changes the meaning slightly.
Just trying to clear my head a little.
Is 'llamar' always used with 'a'? Or is this a personal 'a' that's added because its 'mis amigos' after it? For example, if you were to say 'I need to call the fire department/police department' or something like that, would the 'a' be used?
Also, would the personal 'a' be used if a child was saying, for example. 'I want my mum!'. Would that be 'Quiero a mi mamá', as opposed to wanting a thing like 'quiero un bocadillo'?
Any help appreciated, thanks very much!
The verb "llamar" is almost always followed by the preposition "a" because the object of that verb is almost always a particular person (or persons) or something personified as such (e.g., the police, a taxi, etc.). In those instances, the "a" corresponds to what is loosely referred to as the "personal a." There is no rule for the verb itself that I am aware of.
Your example with "quiero a mi mamá" (vs. wanting a sandwich) is correct. As an aside, that phrase is often used to say "I love my mom." That meaning doesn't change the use of the preposition, it's just an observation of the way "querer" is used when talking about people.
There's no grammar rule that explains it, if that's what you're seeking. The verb phrase "tener que " is somewhat unique in the need for "que." (There's also "hay que," but let's not get distracted by that.)
Usually, modal verbs aren't followed by any preposition. So, "tener " is more exceptional in that sense.
So, "querer," "deber,"" necesitar," "poder," etc. are followed immediately by the main verb, without any intervening preposition.
Is call here meant as 'call on someone' i.e. visit or call as ring on the phone. Meaning is unclear and could be taken either way. In British English which is official English language you do not tend to use 'call' for ring on the phone!