The dictionary entry of 打電話 that is given here says:


  1. to make a telephone call

Therefore, I would expect to be able to use it like this:

    我 晚上 要 打電話 媽媽

However, I found the following example here:

    我 晚上 要 給 媽媽 打電話

Q: are both versions valid? are they both the same?

Should 打電話 be read as a single unit or broken down into 打 電話 ? Is this a relevant issue?

The dictionary entry of 打 that is given here lists:

to send or call

打電報 / 打电报 ― diànbào ― to send a telegraph

打電話 / 打电话 ― diànhuà ― to call on the telephone

打手機 / 打手机 ― shǒujī ― to call on the cellphone

  • 1
    This is a case of transitivity. The verb "to call" in English is transitive, but the verbal phrase 打电话 in Chinese is intransitive. – Michaelyus Jul 2 '18 at 10:09
  • @Michaelyus thank you for pointing that out – Patrick Trentin Jul 2 '18 at 10:22

我 晚上 要 打电话 媽媽 : This is invalid.

In the phrase "打电话", "打" is the verb and "电话" is the object. And the "打" here is not a verb that can take two objects. So you must use: 我 晚上 要 給 媽媽 打電話

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    or 我 晚上 要 打電話 給 媽媽 – Tang Ho Jul 1 '18 at 14:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.