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Common Error: "How do you call…?"

Hello everyone, and welcome to Mistake Mond… uhm, Mistake Tuesday! Monday was a national holiday here in Costa Rica, so we didn’t have to go to work. That was great, but it seems to have melted my brain a bit, and I completely forgot about Mistake Monday. But better late than never, right?

Anyhow, today’s error is very common among my students and even my coworkers. I often don’t even notice it anymore, but I still told my students I’d talk about it on the blog. It’s when someone says, “How do you call…?” to ask for an unknown vocabulary word. Confused? Let’s take a closer look:

Common Error: “How do you call…?”
DON’T say this: How do you call a person who collects trash?
I don’t know how to call my amazing new invention.
WHY? -When people say this, they’re probably just translating “Cómo se llama” in Spanish, “Wie heisst es” in German, or a similar equivalent in another language. In English, though, you should say What do you call…” if you’re asking for the name of an unknown object or person.

-Technically, you could say “How do you call…” but then you’d be asking for a method of calling. If my students ask a question with “How do you call…” I usually respond, “With a telephone!” (Because I’m a mean teacher!)

INSTEAD, SAY THIS: -“What do you call a person who collects trash?”
-“I don’t know what to call my amazing new invention.”
-“Can you help me? I don’t know how to call the telephone operator to ask for a telephone number.”

So, that’s it for today. I wasn’t really sure what to call today’s post, but I hope it was clear. If you have any comments or questions, please leave a comment or contact us. Thanks for reading, and have a great week!
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  1. Diego C
    On April 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm Reply

    I don’t know what to call this mistake but if I had problems with it, I know how to call you for help.

  2. Sitzman
    On April 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm Reply

    Haha, perfect, Diego! 🙂

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