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Today my conversation group had a heated argument about whether it is correct to say "Ich (or er, sie etc.) wurde (in Berlin, etc.) geboren" or "Ich (...) bin (...) geboren". I looked at a few links and none of them gives a definitive answer:

  • Some links say that "bin" is the more colloquial version, but both are correct
  • Some say that "bin" must be used if the subject is living, otherwise "wurde".
  • Some say that "bin" can only be used if the speaker is talking about the place of birth, otherwise wurde should be used (for example, "Ich wurde 1990 geboren" would be the only correct form according to this version.)

Is there a definitive answer?

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"geboren" is the Participle II and therefore only correct if used with the correct auxiliary verb or in the passive.

So the correct sentences with "geboren" and "ich" are:

  • Ich wurde geboren. (Passive imperfect)
  • Ich bin geboren worden. (Passive Perfect)
  • Ich bin geboren. (Passive state)

For completeness of my "Ich" and "geboren" list:

  • Ich war geboren worden. (Passive Plusquamperfekt)
  • Ich habe geboren. (Perfect active; I'm the person who got a baby)
  • Ich hatte geboren. (Plusquamperfekt active)

All of the first group are correct and can be used to say that you were born in Berlin. When speaking with someone the most common is passive perfect. But none of the others in the first group are really wrong.

You can also use all of the passive operation (Vorgangspassiv) to say that you were born in 1990. (Using the passive state sounds rather odd.)

No, there is not a definite answer. But using "Ich bin in Berlin geboren worden" when talking is a good choice.

  • 1
    I'd say a more common colloquial variant would not be the passive past but just "Ich bin/komme/stamme aus Berlin". – Takkat Jul 30 '15 at 7:37
  • @Takkat Yeah, actually I thought about this while writing my answer but I did not add it because the question is about whether "ich bin geboren" is correct. – idmean Jul 30 '15 at 7:39
  • Also very common: Ich kam in Berlin zur Welt. – Steffen Roller Aug 4 '15 at 1:25
  • 1
    In Berlin I hear most frequently: Ich bin in Berlin geboren (or: ich bin (gebürtiger) Berliner) – Iris Aug 4 '15 at 7:25
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Always correct ist wurde:

Ich wurde geboren. (without additional information)
Ich wurde in Graz geboren. (place)
Ich wurde 1965 geboren. (time)
Ich wurde von meiner Mutter geboren. (any other additional information)

Same is true for english:

I was born.
I was born in Graz.
I was born in 1965.
I was born by my mother.

When talking about the place of birth, you can also say bin (in english: am):

Ich bin in Graz geboren.
I am born in Graz.

But this is unusual (I'm not sure if it is really grammatically wrong, but I guess so):

Ich bin geboren.  
Ich bin 1965 geboren.  
Ich bin von meiner Mutter geboren.  

In english this would be:

I am born.  
I am born in 1965.  
I am born by my mother.  

But I've already heard people say things like »Ich bin 1965 geboren.« So it's rare, and I'm not sure if it is really correct. I wouldn't use it.

But you can turn those sentences into absolutely correct sentences by adding »worden« to the end:

Ich bin geboren worden.
Ich bin 1965 geboren worden.
Ich bin von meiner Mutter geboren worden.

Which is in english:

I've been born.
I've been born in 1965.
I've been born by my mother.

  • 6
    The comparison to English is misleading. That I am born in 1965 is or is not acceptable in English doesn't tell us anything about the German phrase Ich bin 1965 geboren, which is very common in certain situations (at least in parts of Germany, there may be regional differences, as is often the case). – chirlu Jul 30 '15 at 5:33
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    @chirlu He just provided the verbatim translations but didn't discuss whether or not they're correct in English (except for the first section). The last ones (have been) are totally wrong in English anyway. The middle ones (bin geboren / am born) is wrong in both languages (in standard language; in some regions they may say it though and claim it is correct, but it is not.) – Em1 Jul 30 '15 at 7:40
  • If Ich bin 1965 geboren. was grammatically wrong, then Ich bin in Berlin geboren. would be wrong, too, because the difference is purely semantic. It's just, that people ignore the temporal aspect in the second one but not the first one. – Toscho Nov 20 '16 at 14:06
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I consider the best variant is:

Ich bin gebürtiger Berliner.

Another good way to express the fact:

Ich wurde in Berlin geboren.

Or more complicated

Ich bin in Berlin geboren worden.

also

Ich kam in Berlin zur Welt.
  • Couldn't it be dropped last term like always you do i.e. "ich werde nach Hause(gehen), ich möchte ins Kino(gehen).I think in german when something is very clear to understand what they mean it's very common to drop last word or teachers are liar? – user1474062 Oct 18 '15 at 20:10
  • you can say: "Ich möchte ins Kino". You cannot say: "Ich werde nach Hause", but you can say: "Ich möchte nach Hause." – Steffen Roller Oct 19 '15 at 21:06

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