If someone who doesn't really know German says

Ich bin [name]

instead of

Ich heiße ...

to introduce him/herself, is this an error in German and how odd does it sound?

  • 12
    Which error do you mean? "Ich bin [name]" is a common way of introducing oneself. Oct 31 '17 at 18:44
  • 7
    Many German courses (at least the one I took) teach that "Ich heiße [name]" is the correct way and that "Ich bin [name]" is strictly wrong — maybe because of not wanting to teach students a less formal version. That's where I suspect the confusion comes from.
    – xish
    Oct 31 '17 at 21:49
  • 3
    @xish ... interesting why they teach that "Ich bin..." is strictly wrong. Many things in languages depend on circumstances, situation, pragmatics. You would usually rather give recommendations where a certain form of expression is appropriate and where not. Nov 1 '17 at 9:53
  • 5
    @xish, whatever ... The point is that "Ich bin [name]" is a common way of introducing oneself. There is absolutely nothing wrong, not even slang, youth language, or dialect. Nov 1 '17 at 9:53
  • 5
    Here is a hypothesis: It happens (quite often) that stuff about foreign languages (or languages in general) that once has been published in a textbook becomes entrenched in the teaching of that language because authors of textbooks seldom write those books from scratch (and based on real-world knowledge), they rather reuse what they find in existing books. And thus various unrealistic concepts are perpetuated. (Example: many Germans believe "it's raining cats and dogs" is a popular idiom in English, just because this was in their textbooks for generations.) Nov 1 '17 at 15:32

The difference is in the level of formality vs casualness here.

Ich heiße Fritz Müller

would be a formal, almost stiff way of introducing yourself. Someone presenting himself to a conference auditory he is new to could use this.

Ich bin der Fritz

is a very casual (but friendly) way of introducing yourself. Fritz thus suggest to use "Du" for addressing him.

Ich bin Fritz Müller

is somewhat in-between: both formal and to some extent casual.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Takkat
    Nov 3 '17 at 9:14

When I was in school, at the age of 14, we read the book “Krabat” in the German class. One sentence I remember strongly is:

Ich bin Krabat, ein Mühlknappe aus dem Koselbruch.

We discussed the difference between “ich heiße” and “ich bin” for quite a long time in class, maybe even a whole lesson. Since then I prefer “ich bin” over “ich heiße”.

The latter sounds technical, like answering a question for specific information, while the former puts emphasis on the person as a complex being. “I am”, I identify with all of my thoughts, my traits, myself.

Most probably, people who had other teachers will have made other experiences.


"Ich bin X," in this context is not wrong. It's just not formal German.

It's like the difference in English between saying "Hi," and "Hello." The latter is more common, but using the former isn't an error, or even "odd." It is just "less common" and less formal.

So the answer to your question is, "Nothing much."


There's an ever-present danger of a touch, or more than a touch, of arrogance, pride, or self-obsession being either implied or inferred by "Ich bin".

There's more control over this (for better or worse) when it's spoken rather than written. If written, the nuances in its meaning will vary according to context and other evidence.

  • Welcome to German.SE. As I'm blank in this topic - do you have any reference where your mentioned aspect is a little bit discussed? Can you link to it & quote the relevant part? Thanks Sep 25 '20 at 5:47

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