What/How do you call it?

sanne78

Senior Member
Dutch
Hello!!

I had a discussion with my students this afternoon about a sentence in one of our course books: the sentence started with "What do you call ..."
They said that they had always been told that it should be "How do you call..." as you say in French "Comment appelle-t-on...?"
I didn't know what to say...:eek:

According to "google" ;) either sentence is possible, but is there a difference in meaning?

What (How?) do you call a teacher that cannot give clear-cut answers to her students????
 
  • Angle O'Phial

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I would always write what do you call, but you might hear me say how do you call it in an informal context. No real difference in meaning, just register.
     

    Avalar

    Member
    English
    I'd definitely always use 'what do you call X' or 'what is X called', whereas it's 'How do you spell X'.
     

    sanne78

    Senior Member
    Dutch
    I've found this on another website: http://www.pearsonlongman.com/ae/azar/grammar_ex/message_board/archive/articles/00040.htm

    "To simplify, you could explain that
    "How do you say that?" asks for a word, a phrase, a sentence or a paraphrase. It is quite comprehensive.

    "What do you call that?" asks for a noun or noun construction. It's very specific.

    "How do you call that?" is incorrect."

    But I do have the impression that some (a lot of ?) people use "How do you call that?". Maybe it's sort of correct in AE? :confused:



     

    Suehil

    Medemod
    British English
    I hear 'how do you call that' quite often, but exclusively from French and Dutch natives. I have never heard it from a native English speaker - though I must admit I have not heard many Americans asking that particular question.
     

    sanne78

    Senior Member
    Dutch
    I hear 'how do you call that' quite often, but exclusively from French and Dutch natives. I have never heard it from a native English speaker - though I must admit I have not heard many Americans asking that particular question.

    Thanks Suehil, that's very clear!
    I hadn't even realised that in Dutch we say "how" (hoe) as well... ;)
     

    sabretoof

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    "How do you call ..." gives the impression that you are asking how one performs the action of calling something.
     
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