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How would you translate the English expression "what's your name?” into Italian? Is it "qual è il tuo nome?" or something else?

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    Seriously? Google couldn't answer that? – bluewhile Jan 28 '15 at 20:25
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    Please use this site to ask questions which you have researched and not found an answer to, rather than for things that can be found in every dictionary and phrasebook, online and elsewhere. See also here. – DaG Jan 29 '15 at 0:04
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"Qual è il tuo nome?" is correct, but it's rarely used. "Come ti chiami?" is more frequent.
Moreover, please note that while in English "You" is used even with strangers, in Italian there's a difference:

  • If you know who you're talking with, or you're in a very informal context, you have to use the second person singular (eg "Come ti chiami?")
  • Else, you have to use the third person singular feminine (eg "Come si chiama [implied: lei]?")
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The most common Italian form used to ask a person's name is "Come ti chiami?" which can be translated into English as something like "How are you called?". To be honest, its literal translation would be "How do you call yourself?", which would sound funny.

As pointed out in other answers, one can distinguish two situations:

  • In informal contexts, like everyday life, flirting, getting to know new classmates, "put-your-situation-here", you can safely (and it is common practice too) use the phrase "Come ti chiami?".

  • In formal contexts, like talking with important people, you are encouraged to use a forma di cortesia. It is not contemplated in contemporary English, but it can be found in languages such as Italian or German. Thus, some formal phrases are "Qual è il Suo nome?" or "Come si chiama Lei?". In German, it would sound like "Entschuldigen Sie bitte, wie heißen Sie?". Note that, when referring to a person with formal phrases, the third singular feminine form of the personal pronoun is used.

  • I believe English would still refer to the Queen with What is thy name?, which is formal. (Although not for this particular question, since everybody know what's her name). – Bakuriu Jan 28 '15 at 22:18
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    @Bakuriu: proper protocol would be "What is Your Majesty's name?". In effect she has her own special pronoun ;-) Anyway, "thee/thou/thy" are the singular/familiar pronouns in English. They sound high-brow now because we know them from the King James Bible, which uses them to refer to God. But they are not (and were not then) plural/polite forms. The plural/polite form was "ye/you/your". – user1185 Jan 29 '15 at 0:44
  • @Tia27 Because, usually, it's the other people that call you. You don't generally speak to yourself, and if you do, you probably don't need to use a name anyway. – Bakuriu Jan 29 '15 at 7:31
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    About the first paragraph and the funny thing, notice that the double meaning is valid even in Italian: there is even a common joke... "Come ti chiami?" - "Io non mi chiamo, mi chiamano gli altri..." – Rmano Jan 29 '15 at 9:37
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You could say it as

Come ti chiami?

or

Come si chiama?

The first one is informal but the second one is formal.

You would use the first one when talking to friends, family, or anyone your age.

You would use the second one when talking to professors and older people.

Hope this helps!!!

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