From The HSK acadamy site, it seems that 叫 can be used in two contexts.

First, it can be used to say someone called someone else:

  1. 妈妈和爸爸叫我

There is no translation given, but I think it means mum and dad call me.

In the second and third examples on this page,

  1. 我的名字叫李明

  2. 小姐,你叫什么名字?

I think 叫 is here used for giving or asking someones name. I would translate the second sentence as My name is 李明, and the third as Lady, what is your name? However, this is always used together with 名字, which means name. However, I've also seen simply

  1. 我叫 Wythagoras

for simply my name is Wythagoras (not my real name, by the way).

I am a bit confused by all the different usages of 叫, so the question is: In what context can 叫 be used for saying that someone is calling someone (as in the first sentence) and when for asking a name, when should 名字 be used with 叫 and when can it be left out?


2 Answers 2



[1] [v] cry; shout; hail; scream

[2] [v] be called; known as

[3] [v] call; summon

[4] [v] cause

[3]. call

  • 你叫我 = you call me.
  • 我叫彼得 = I call Peter

[2]. be called

  • 这叫工作 = this is called work
  • 我叫彼得 = I am called Peter (My name is Peter)

Notice 我叫彼得 could mean "I call Peter" or "I am called Peter"(my name is Peter)

To avoid confusion. When you use 叫 for 'to call' you should have enough context connected to this sentence to indicate 叫 means "call".

For example:

"我在叫彼得" (I am calling Peter) or "我叫彼得回来"(I call Peter to come back)

Similarly, when you use 叫 for 'be called', you should either have enough context connected to this sentence to indicate 叫 means "be called",

For example :

Q: "你叫什么名字?" A: "我叫彼得."

or you can be specific and write "我名字(叫)彼得"-- "my name is (called) Peter"


  • In phrases like "你叫我"(subject + 叫 + object) 叫 means 'to call'

  • In phrases like "我叫彼得" (object + 叫 + name) or "这叫工作" (object + 叫 + definition) 叫 means 'be called'


Your intuition is correct. 叫 can be used in both ways (and even more). Here are the most frequent ones.

1) to call, to summon (using someone's voice). Verb is transitive:

Mom and dad call me (they are calling my name)

2) stating one's name. Verb + proper noun or definition:

What's your name? My name is John Doe!

3) to yell, to shout, or more specific verbs when referring to animals, e.g. to bark. This is a colloquial usage. Verb is intransitive:

My dog is barking

4) giving orders, asking to do something. Colloquial usage. Accepts a verb phrase:

我的驾照过期了,我要他开车! My driver's license has expired. I'll ask him to drive!

Specifically, how to decide between the usage 1 and 2. It is often made clear by the context of the whole sentence, as customary with the Chinese language.
As a rule of thumb, you'll have 叫 (to call) when it is followed by a regular object phrase, and you'll have 叫 (asking names) when it is followed by a proper noun or generically by a definition.

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