5

When sending (for example) an email to somebody who probably doesn’t have my current contact information, I would want to remind of who I am. So in English I would write something like:

It’s (my name), from that time we were (bla bla bla)...

How would something like that be expressed in German?

“Es ist ...” sounds like bad style if not completely wrong. The German es behaves somewhat differently from the English it.

  • @Wrzlprmft I'm not sure about the letter tag, this situation could also come up in a phone call. – amirdeq May 15 '16 at 14:38
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    Yes, it can, but the interactive nature of a phone call makes the answers quite different. – Wrzlprmft May 15 '16 at 15:00
  • @Wrzlprmft following Gerhard's answer, I now think that the formality tag is irrelevant here. The question definitely addresses informal writing (and perhaps speech) since it looks for an equivalent to that English form in German which would be informal (I believe it's very informal in professional English as well). – amirdeq May 20 '16 at 19:11
2

Something like:

Ich bin's, der < Name>. Weisst du noch, wir sind damals < bla bla bla>

More formal, there's always:

Ich bin < Name>. Wissen Sie noch, wir sind damals < bla bla bla>

Edit: Another formal form could be:

Vielleicht koennen Sie sich noch erinnern, wir sind damals < bla bla bla>

Translated

Perhaps you can still remember ...

And almost extremely formal, stilted even:

Ich moechte mich bei Ihnen in Erinnerung rufen ...

Translated as

I would like to bring myself back into your memory ...

Someone else who deals with contemporary formal German correspondence may comment whether you would use something like this nowadays. I wouldn't use it.

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    In my opinion, explicitly writing "Wissen Sie noch" sounds utterly weird, if not downright rude. – O. R. Mapper May 15 '16 at 17:13
  • @O.R.Mapper Really? Why? Sounds fine to my ears. – Marakai May 15 '16 at 20:31
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    I admit it's just a feeling and difficult to describe exactly. First, especially the wording Wissen Sie noch strikes me as rather too colloquial for a written text, especially for a "formal" letter. And in general, any of the alternatives for expressing that idea of appealing to the reader's memory immediately strikes me as a warning sign that I'm being scammed. It's my impression that either, the writer would expect or at least hope that I remember them (and thus politely not call my memory/brain into doubt), or they'd know full well we never met and I thus couldn't possibly know them ... – O. R. Mapper May 16 '16 at 7:38
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    ..., in which case the explicit invocation of my memory is a method of social engineering to establish a false feeling of familiarity before asking for money or something. – O. R. Mapper May 16 '16 at 7:40
4

In English, you suggested a plain description of who you are:

It’s (my name), from that time we were (bla bla bla)...

In German, I would pretty much suggest the same. You are correct in that it is cannot be translated literally (the same applies to this is); instead, you would simply write

Ich bin (mein Name), ...

Note that I would rather write ich bin than ich heiße, because the latter again sounds more like a first-time introduction.

As for the rest, simply describe in a few sentences how you have already been in touch with the recipient, in a matter-of-fact way, for instance:

Wir haben im Februar auf der Konferenz MachIchMit in Frankfurt nach dem Vortrag zur kollaborativen Zusammenarbeit miteinander gesprochen.

or

Wir waren 2012 in derselben Reisegruppe auf der Rundreise duch den kambodschanischen Süden.

or

Wir waren vergangenes Jahr mehrfach wegen technischer Probleme bei Ihrem Saugblaser in der Weihnachtsedition in Kontakt.

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    I personally would likely not mention the "Ich bin..." at all - I would assume that the reader realises who the letter is from by either the letter head or the signature, and it is almost a bit patronising to assume otherwise. Instead, I would start straight away with how we know each other, in the mentioned matter-of-fact way. – Gerhard May 16 '16 at 8:09
  • @Gerhard: Very true, somehow I didn't think of that. – O. R. Mapper May 16 '16 at 8:10
  • @Gerhard Good point, the name is always given already. Although I can see some fine difference here: you could remind somebody who doesn't really know you about this or that time that you've met, in which case omitting the "Ich bin ..." (or "It's ..." for the point) would be better. But if the person actually knows pretty well who you are but it's only your contact info (email) that he doesn't have, then it makes more sense (in my intuition) to include "Ich bin". As an aside I would add that my question originally addressed the latter, your comment is however meaningful. – amirdeq May 17 '16 at 19:10
3

In professional, written correspondence (letters, emails), I would not mention my name ("Ich bin...") in the text at all. I generally would consider this an Americanism (even in the UK I do not hear this very frequently). It has a rather unpleasant ring to it, and mainly reminds me of a bad sales pitch where some one tries to suck up to you. Also, it does sound a bit rude and patronising, as if the author does expect me to not know fully well what their name is - this is usually obvious from the letter head, signature or email footer. (If you have none of these, you might want to revisit how you write professional correspondence. ;) )

As for how you know the person, this is a very different thing. If this is what you want to convey, my way of starting the letter is what @O.R.Mapper and @ Marakai suggested: in a matter-of-fact way. Describe how you know each other, mention what you have talked about, what you have experienced together, and so on - there is no need for mentioning their name:

Wir haben uns letzte Woche auf der Messe für Medizintechnik in Köln getroffen und ich hätte noch einige Fragen bezüglich ihres Produktes.

The only exception I can come up with in written form is that one might start with something along the lines of

Ich bin's, Gerhard. Lange nichts von dir gehört!

This is pretty much taken directly from how you might talk to a friend. This only works, if you are on a "Du"-basis with the other person, and even then only if you know them rather well. Even though the lines between "Du" and "Sie" are a bit more blurry nowadays, and it might be okay in your field to address people you have just met by "Du": If you have a need to introduce yourself, you are not close enough to use this.

I would never, ever use

Ich heiße Gerhard.

as this assumes that you actually do not know the other person very well.

Things are rather different of course, when it comes to spoken language, e.g. phone calls or meeting some one at a conference. Here, one has no way of knowing what the other person's name is. You could introduce yourself e.g. with

Mein Name ist Gerhard LastName.

Gerhard LastName. (rather neutral)

Ich bin Gerhard. (less formal, I would not use it with a last name)

All of those are normally accompanied by a firm handshake ;)

  • I agree that this should only be rarely used. Nowadays anyway it's more common for people to use various electronic contact methods which could sometimes make it necessary to remind the addressee who you are. In my case (which led to the question) it's closing of a Facebook account and an Email account, when recently I had to contact some people who only had the older contact info. All of them on a "du" basis. Indeed, this is definitely not for professional correspondence. – amirdeq May 20 '16 at 19:03

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