I have seen that when the object of heißen normally has a definite article, it is written with this article. An example is the sentence

Dieser Satz heißen die Newton-Leibniz-Formel.

Which case is this object phrase in? I am not sure whether heißen is a linking verb or not. Is the sentence

Dieser Satz heißt der Fundamentalsatz der Analysis

or is the sentence

Dieser Satz heißt den Fundamentalsatz der Analysis


  • 1
    "Dieser Satz heißen die Newton-Leibniz-Formel." That's not grammatical. And for latter sentences you should drop der respectively den.
    – stephanmg
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 15:59

4 Answers 4


The verb heißen is indeed a linking verb, a copula, in this case.

Der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal heißt heute Nord-Ostsee-Kanal.

Nord-Ostsee-Kanal is a predicative in the previous sentence, and put in the nominative case because of the subject link. But you cannot see that because proper names aren't declined in German. And you cannot make it clear either because using articles or pronouns with heißen sounds weird.

Dieser Satz heißt der/ein/jener Fundamentalsatz der Analysis.

With sein, it's perfectly okay nevertheless.

Dieser Satz ist der/ein/jener Fundamentalsatz der Analysis.

  • I disagree that an article sounds weird.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 16:12
  • @CarstenS It's too easy to confuse with Akkusativ, "Das Volk heißt die Frauen Willkommen" (the people welcome DAT the Women), "Sie hießen das Projekt [den] Landwehrkanalkanal" (they called the project [DAT the] Landwehrkanal), "Frühaufstehen heißt für mich, das Kommentieren einschränken" (getting up early means to me ...). Either way, it's certainly not a nominative definite article. Sourced Examples to the opposite welcome. I'm not supplying sources, because you didn't claim that a lack of article were weird.
    – vectory
    Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 16:44

Having grown up in Southern Germany, I accept using the definite article with given names. This also works for complements of sein, but not with heißen.

Ich bin der Robert.
*Ich heiße der Robert.

This could be connected to the fact that the question word for the complement of sein is wer, whereas that for heißen is wie.

Wer bist du? Ich bin der Robert.

Wie heißt du? Ich heiße Robert.

However, DWB features the following quote from Schiller's Wilhelm Tell:

Wär ich besonnen, hieß ich nicht der Tell

Also, compare the following quote from an old mathematics textbook:

Das gegebene Produkt 56 heißt der Dividend, der gegebene Faktor 7 heißt der Divisor, das gesuchte Resultat heißt der Quotient.

So maybe using the article is not totally unacceptable. Still, omitting it seems like the preferred choice. One reason the examples that have the article are interesting is because they show that the complement of heißen takes the nominative.

  • hm, bei Familiennamen ist prinzipiell auch ein Genetiv denkbar, aber doch eher unwahrscheinlich, da es ein Matronym vorraussetzen würde.
    – vectory
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 6:43

Unfortunately, all your examples are wrong.

Dieser Satz heißt Newton-Leibniz-Formel.

It's the same as in English. You wouldn't say:

Diese Blume heißt der Löwenzahn.
(This flower is called the dandelion.)

But you would say:

Diese Blume heißt Löwenzahn.
(This flower is called dandelion.)

Regarding the fundamental theorem of calculus:

Dieser Satz ist der Fundamentalsatz der Analysis.

Die Newton-Leibniz-Formel ist der Fundamentalsatz der Analysis.

Der does also imply that there is only one fundamental theorem. This is in contrast to the following examples:

„0 ist eine natürliche Zahl“ ist ein Axiom der Peano-Arithmetik.

„0 ist kein Nachfolger einer natürlichen Zahl“ ist eines der Axiome der Peano-Arithmetik.

Ein Axiom implies that there are many axioms. Eines der Axiome expresses this fact explicitly.

  • Thank you for letting me know that the articles are dropped in German. In English, the articles are not, for example, the sentence above should be "The flower is called a dandelion." The use of der implying that there is only one theorem with this name is what I was going for. But, perhaps, this is clear by context in German, or at least matters less.
    – Schroder
    Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 15:50
  • @Schröder very bad example. The differentiation between common noun "the dog, this dog, this dog-breed" is rather confusing. For a proper name "This dog-breed is called ..." there's no article, but "This dog's breed is called a ...", because suddenly breed is an instantiation of a proper noun. My intuition about it is therefore not great. I think "These flowers are dandelion" works, as does "This is hemp", but "this is a hemp plant". What's proper and what's not gives Taxonomists a headache, too. From a quick search it seems that "It is called Dandelion" refers to derivative proper nouns.
    – vectory
    Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 17:03

Cases where the article is part of a proper do exist, the band "die Ärzte", the party "die Partei", En. "the cure". Otherwise the article is not used, very evidently in "Ich heiße Vectory". This is nominative.

If that wasn't reason enough, as e.g. English uses both "I'm called vectory", but "This is called the fundamental theorem" (right?), consider that "der, die, das[s]" are polysemous with different grammatical constructions, and that heißen is polysemous, too, meaning e.g. "implies, means", not only "to be named thus". That means that the articles are reserved for other, less frequent cases. That's an intricate problem outside the scope of this question. For simplicity it should suffice to say, there is no article in this construction.

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