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It is usual to find the verb lauten (to sound) as a synonym of sein or heißen, which seems very natural. The questions are:

  1. when am I allowed to use lauten with that purpose? Specifically, if I write, say, a mail and I want to list some items, can I use lauten although, of course, by reading it nothing sounds.

  2. I guess that if I use lauten as described above, the case thereafter is nominative (as by sein und heißen), but I'm not sure. Is that true?

Edit: I guess it's better to ask when lauten cannot be used as synonym of sein.

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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Die Antworten lauten jeweils "Ja".

"Lauten" can be used as a replacement for "sein" in a similar way as "heißen", i.e. the meaning should be related to language, names etc.:

wrong: "Ich laute/heiße müde." correct: "Das Adjektiv, das meinen Zustand beschreibt, heißt/lautet/ist 'müde'".

wrong/unusal: "Sie lautet Berta." (at least it does not mean: "Her name is Berta.") correct: "Sie heißt Berta."

correct:"Wagemut lautet/heißt/ist das Gebot der Stunde." (somewhat melodramatic)

correct: "Die Reservierung lautet/ist/(wurde getätigt) auf den Namen Soundso". wrong/unusual: "Die Reservierung heißt auf den Namen Soundso".

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Thanks. Please, see my recent edition of the question. –  c.p. Mar 4 '13 at 15:28
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The verb "lauten" cannot be used as a synonym of "sein", if it doesn't aim at a specific name. So for example

correct: Ich bin müde. = I am tired.
incorrect: Ich laute müde. = no sense
incorrect: Ich heißt müde. = My name is "Müde".

correct only with quotation marks, even then rather uncommon: Mein Gemütstzustand ist „müde“. = My mood is "tired".
correct: Mein Gemütszustand heißt „müde“. = My mood is called "tired".
correct: Mein Gemütszustand lautet „müde“. = My mood is called "tired".

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It has to be "Ich heiße müde" instead of "heißt" –  Sentry Mar 5 '13 at 14:11
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I would say that lauten is not really a synonym for neither heißen nor sein because there are way more situations where it doesn't work than situation in which you can interchange the words. And in situations where it does work it often seems out of place to me... to use the example of Mudu:

Sein Name lautet John.

I don't get why someone would need to say that. The verb is sein here and using lauten makes it more complicated than it needs to be.

I checked lauten on Linguee and the examples there are mostly connected to speech or written text, that is retold or rephrased... not so much to mere denomination or existence. I would suggest to think of lauten as to be worded or to read (that other to read :) ) There is some overlap to heißen and sein but not so much.

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Yes. I admit this is very abstract:

As "heissen" in German "Lauten" relates to a person's name, whereas "sein" or "heissen" is tied to person itself.

Examples:

  • Er heisst John. He is called John.
  • Sein Name lautet John. His name is John.

You don't use the latter to introduce John to someone. You may rather think of a CSI-like TV series where John's driving license is on the screen for the first time: "Sein Name lautet John. Er wurde wegen Diebstahls verurteilt."

There is also a "phrasal verb" lauten auf which describes a name mentioned in a passport or similar document:

  • Dieser Ausweis lautet auf Bob Smith. This passport is issued to a Bob Smith.
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