Posted by: janecronin | February 3, 2019


As I have tried to keep to common verbs in these articles, I think it is definitely time to talk about “llamar” as in many cases this is one of the first words that people learn in Spanish.  “Llamar” actually means “to call”.  There is a historical linguistic relationship between words that begin with “ll” and those that begin with “cl” so in fact “llamar” is related to our word “claim” as it is to the Spanish group of words like “clamar” (clamour) “reclamar” (claim) and clamoroso (resounding, rousing).  This might seem rather obscure, but with a bit of imagination you might be able to see the connections.

Coming back to “llamar”, first and foremost we can say, once more, that this verb is completely regular in its formation, so it works in the same way as “hablar”, “mirar” and hundreds, if not thousands, of other verbs.  It means “to call” in the sense of shouting out to somebody, but nowadays usually refers to the telephone (how old-fashioned that is beginning to sound) in the same way as “call” does in English.  “Te llamo mañana” means “I’ll call you tomorrow” and “Llamo a la policía” means (I’ll call the police) which seem to be the two most useful basic sentences using this verb.  Notice incidentally that we use the present tense form “llamo – I call” when we are making spontaneous decisions, where in English we use the future form “I’ll call”.

The reason this verb crops up very soon in our Spanish language learning is because of its reflexive form “llamarse” which means “to be called”.  The literal translation of “llamarse” is to “call oneself” but if we translate it literally in context it quickly sounds a bit ridiculous.  “Me llamo Jane” means “I’m called Jane” in other words “my name is Jane”.  “I call myself Jane” in English just sounds as though I’m actually called something else, but for some capricious reason I’ve decided to “call myself” Jane:  “My name is Esmeralda, but I call myself Jane”.

Anyway, in beginners Spanish classes people are generally taught to say “Me llamo Fred” (or whatever) which means “My name is Fred”.  If the sentence isn´t explained very well, people sometimes pick up the idea that “me” must mean “I” and “llamo” therefore must mean “name” (all completely wrong of course) which then leads to the incorrect sentence “Me llamo es Fred” .  Personally I avoid this whole issue in my early lessons by teaching people to say “Soy Fred” (I’m Fred):  firstly, it’s easier to explain and secondly, it actually sounds more natural to me in everyday conversation.

The other basic “llamarse” sentence is the question “¿Cómo te llamas?” (How do you call yourself? i.e. What is your name?)   In a more formal or official situation this would become “¿Cómo se llama?” or “¿Cómo se llama usted?” to which the reply would be “Me llamo Fred” or “Soy Fred Bloggs” depending on the situation.



  1. Another delightful to read and insightful explanation. Many thanks!

  2. Thank you Alan!

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