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I'm learning how to translate "What's your last/first name?" with Duolingo and Google Translate. Both apps indicate that the correct translations are

你的姓是什么?

and

你叫什么名字

There are many differences here. The first one has a 的 (de) and a 是 (shì), which the latter does not have. The second one has a 叫 (jiào), and 什么 comes before 名字 and not at the end of the phrase.

Why is there such a difference?

  • 2
    You can also say "你的名字是什么?". (你叫什么名字 or just 你叫什么 should be preferred). For asking the last name, I'd preferred just "你姓什么?". Or if you want to be polite: "您贵姓?" – fefe Sep 17 '18 at 10:04
  • @fefe Thanks! Is it correct to say that the first translation is literally "Your last name is what?", while the second one would translate to "You called what first name?"? – cheeesus Sep 17 '18 at 10:44
  • @cheeesus Seems okay to say those. The translation engines gave the most commonly used expressions. – xbh Sep 17 '18 at 10:55
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你的姓是什么? is not a common way to ask someone's last name.

The more common way is :

  1. "Title +贵姓?"

  2. "你姓什么?" (the noun '姓' here is acting like a verb (is family-named)

In the past, most people in high society would have a 姓(family name), a 名 (given name) and a 字 (Courtesy name)

For example:

曹操 Cao Cao

姓:曹 (is last-named: Cao)

名:操 (is first-named:Cao)

字:孟德 (is courtesy-named: Meng Deo)

You can call Cao Cao's 姓名, which is 曹操 (Cao Cao) and it is a formal address

You can call Cao Cao's 姓 and 字, which is 曹孟德 (Cao Meng Deo) if you were close to him

In modern time, 名 and 字 are consolidated into 名字 for the meaning of 'name' . Few people, if any are using 字 nowadays

We only use 名字 as a noun, therefore we need a verb '是'(is) or '叫'(called) when asking what is someone's name. e.g. "你的名字是什么" or "你的名字叫什么"

Actually, 姓名 is almost interchangeable with 名字 in modern time

When someone ask "你的名字是什么?" It is more common to state your full name (全名) than just your given name

Example:

If Cao Cao was here , and someone asked him : "你叫什么名字?"(what is your name called), the following answers would all be correct:

"我名叫曹操" ( he is stating his 姓名, which is the most common way to answer)

"我名叫曹孟德" (he wants you to address him by his courtesy name)

(名 can be omitted in the two answers above)

"我姓曹, 名操, 字孟德" (classical speech -- in this case, 姓, 名 and 字 all act like verb)

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In fact, you are asking the differences between two sentencies rather than two phrases.

The translations of "first name" and "last name" should be just:

姓 => last name

名 => first name

And your app translations are:

你的姓是什么? => What is your last name?

你的名是什么? => What is your first name?

你叫什么名字? => What's your name?

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