Italian Word of the Day: Chiamare (to call)

Today we are going to investigate a beginner verb that every learner should master from day one – chiamare – which means to call.

/chia·mà·re/ – [kjaˈmare]
Italian verb "chiamare"

Chiamare is a regular -ARE verb, which means that it should be conjugated in the following manner in the present tense:

io chiamo = I call
tu chiami = you call (informal, singular)
lui chiama = he calls
lei chiama = she calls

Lei chiama = you call (formal, singular)
noi chiamiamo = we call
voi chiamate
= you call (plural)
loro chiamano = they call

Two etymologically related terms are chiamata (call) and chiama (roll call).

Luckily for English-speaking learners of Italian, the Italian chiamare corresponds, for the most part, to the English to call.

Chiamare = to call out (to someone)

First of all, it can be used to call, or call out to someone. In this case, you always need to include an object. Note that chiamare requires a direct object pronoun.

He calls Giovanni. > He calls him.
Lui chiama Giovanni. > Lui lo chiama.
Lui chiama a Giovanni. > Lui gli chiama.

We call Giovanni and Luca. > We call them.
Noi chiamiamo Giovanni e Luca. > Noi li chiamiamo.
Noi chiamiamo a Giovanni e Luca. > Noi gli chiamiamo.

Young boy shouting in class.
Ti sto chiamando! = I’m calling you!

Chiamare = to call someone [name]

Chiamare can also mean “to call someone [name]” or “to give a name to someone,” as in the phrase:

It is from this usage we get the Italian for “my name is…” which literally translates to io mi chiamo… (I call myself). In this case, chiamare becomes reflexive – chiamarsi (to call oneself).

io mi chiamo = I call myself / my name is
tu ti chiami = you call yourself / your name is (informal, singular)
lui si chiama = he calls himself / his name is
lei si chiama = she calls herself / her name is

Lei si chiama = you call yourself / your name is (formal, singular)
noi ci chiamiamo = we call ourselves / our names are
voi vi chiamate = you call yourselves / your names are (plural)
loro si chiamano = they call themselves / their names are

man holding bengal cat
Il gatto si chiama Gigi. = The cat is called Gigi.

Chiamare = to call someone on the phone

Chiamare can also function as a synonym for telefonare (to telephone). There is no difference in meaning between the two, except that telefonare sounds slightly more formal.

That being said, keep in mind that while chiamare takes a direct object pronoun and needs no preposition, telefonare requires an indirect object pronoun and the preposition a (to). Compare the following examples:

Luisa chiama Marco. > Luisa calls Marco.
Lei lo chiama. > She calls him.

Luisa telefona a Marco. > Luisa telephones Marco.
Lei gli telefona. > She telephones him.

Noi chiamiamo Pietro e Giulia. > We call Pietro and Giulia.
Noi li chiamiamo. > We call them.

Noi telefoniamo a Pietro e Giulia. > We telephone Pietro and Giulia.
Noi gli telefoniamo. > We telephone them.

Note: Here are the direct and indirect object pronouns in Italian. As you can see, the pronouns mi, ti, ci and vi are the same for both.

Direct > mi (me), ti (you), lo (him), la (her), ci (us), vi (you), li / le (them).

Indirect > mi (to me), ti (to you), gli (to him), le (to her), ci (to us), vi (to you), gli (to them).

Close-up of young woman talking on the phone outdoors in the street.

Chiamare = to call or convene

In more formal contexts, chiamare can be used when ordering or requesting the attendance of a person or group of people.

Figurative Meanings for ‘Chiamare’

The figurative meanings for chiamare diverge somewhat from the English to call.

One possible meaning is “to attract” or “to bring as a consequence” as in chiamare la sfortuna (to attract bad luck).

The second is “to hire” or “to name” someone for a job or assignment. For example, chiamare qualcuno a dirigere l’azienda translates to hire someone to run the company.

It’s also heard a lot in sports in the phrase chiamare la palla (to call the ball) and games such as cards: chiamare la carta (to make a call).

Before we conclude the article, I’d like to share a few set phrases containing chiamare that you might find useful:

  • chiamare a raccolta = to rally / mobilise
  • chiamare a rapporto = to summon someone
  • chiamare a testimone / in tribunale / in giudizio = to call someone to give evidence in court
  • chiamare le cose col proprio nome = to call a spade a spade
  • chiamare alle armi = to call to arms

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