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What is the main difference between 掛ける and 電話する? I went onto Jisho, it says 掛ける means "to make (a call)" as an Ichidan verb, but if I look on the Vocabulary page for Lesson 6 of Genki 1, it says "電話する" means "to call).

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    You mean 掛ける not 描ける, right?
    – A.Ellett
    Commented May 7 at 2:44

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かける by itself does not mean "to make a call". It only corresponds to the "make" part of the English phrase "make a call", and that's why "a call" is put in parentheses in the dictionary definition. If you just say かける, the listener will simply be confused (unless the listener clearly knows from the context that it's about a phone call).

To use かける correctly, you need to also specify the correct object, 電話. Let's remember these basic usage patterns.

  1. 彼に電話をかける
    to make a call to him
  2. 彼に電話する
    to call him
  3. 彼と電話する
    to talk on the phone with him

The difference between 1 and 2 is small, but ~に電話をかける emphasizes more on the action or attempt of initiating a phone call, whereas ~に電話する focuses more on the talking part. This distinction becomes more important when used in the progressive form:

  • 彼に電話をかけています。
    I'm calling him. (I'm trying to connect the call to him.)
  • 彼と電話しています。
    I'm talking on the phone with him.

(彼に電話しています can mean either of the above depending on the context.)

By the way, verbs like かける, とる and する are called light verbs. English also has a similar set of light verbs, and learners cannot predict which noun goes with which verb. They simply have to remember each usage. For set phrases like this, it doesn't make much sense to worry about the literal meaning of the verb too much, so let's just learn them by rote.

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As a nonnative speaker here, I'm going to go out on a limb here a bit.

掛ける has a lot of meanings. Spoken alone it could mean many, many different things.

I don't think anyone uses 掛ける alone ever to mean "to make a phone call". You would say something like 電話をかける.

I think this perhaps has a bit of an old feel to it though. Think of the old rotary phones you would dial.

Incidentally, does anyone in English say "dial the phone" anymore? I think we now prefer to say "make a phone call".

かける can have a similar sense of something rotating/spinning.

It might be interesting to note now in the digital age whether かける gets much use anymore for things like playing videos etc.

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    電話をかける doesn't sound old at all to me.
    – naruto
    Commented May 7 at 3:21
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    It seems this かける has more to do with 声を掛ける and perhaps 橋を架ける with a sense of "get across" than any physical motion.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented May 7 at 4:41

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