Learn How to Conjugate the Verb "Heissen" (to Call)

A Lesson in German Verb Conjugations

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The German verb heissen means "to be named" or "to be called." It's a very common word and you will use it all the time to tell people your name or to ask someone else's name. There are other uses as well, which is why it's an important word to know and is often included in a beginner's vocabulary for German students.

As with all verbs, we need to conjugate heissen in order to say phrases such as the present tense "his name is" and the past tense "he was called." This lesson will show you how all of that is done.

An Introduction to the Verb Heissen

Before we begin with the heissen conjugates, there are a few things you should know about the verb.

First of all, as is common in the German language, the double-s of heissen is often replaced with the letter ß. This forms the word heißen. Both are the same word and have the same pronunciation, some people simply prefer to use German's unique letter.

Principal Parts: heißen - hieß - geheißen

Examples of heissen in a sentence:

  • Wie heißen Sie? - What is your name?
  • Was soll das heißen? - What is that supposed to mean? or What do you mean by that?

Imperative (Commands): (duHeiße! - (ihrHeißt! - Heißen Sie!

Heissen in the Present Tense (Präsens)

The verb heissen is a strong (irregular) verb. This means that it does not follow a regular pattern and you will have to memorize all of the conjugations.

In the present tense singular, it has only two forms: heiße (ich) and heißt (du, er/sie/es).

However, as you see in the conjugation chart, the present tense plural is heißen in all but one instance.

Singular
ich heißeI am named/called, my name is
du heißtyou are named/called, your name is
er heißt
sie heißt
es heißt
he is named/called, his name is
she is named/called, her name is
it is named/called its name is
Plural
wir heißenwe are named/called, our name is
ihr heißtyou (guys) are named/called, your name is
sie heißenthey are named/called, their name is
Sie heißenyou are named/called, your name is

While studying the present tense, you might also consider studying the verb mood Subjunctive I (der Konjunktiv).

Heissen in the Past Tenses (Vergangenheit)

The past tense forms hieß and geheißen are irregular. The following charts will guide you through the conjugations of heissen in the simple past tense (imperfekt), the present perfect past tense (perfekt), and the past perfect tense (plusquamperfekt).

At the same time, you might want to review or begin your studies of the German Subjunctive II. It will help your fluency in German if you understand how to form and when to use this common verb mood.

Heissen in the Simple Past Tense (Imperfekt)

The most basic form of the past tense in German is the simple past tense (imperfekt). This is how you will generally say things like "he was named" and it should be a top priority in your studies.

Singular
ich hießI was named/called
du hießtyou were named/called
er hieß
sie hieß
es hieß
he was named/called
she was named/called
it was named/called
Plural
wir hießenwe were named/called
ihr hießtyou (guys) were named/called
sie hießenthey were named/called
Sie hießenyou were named/called

Heissen in the Compound Past Tense (Perfekt)

You will use the present perfect (perfekt) or compound past tense when the action of naming is somehow undefined.

For instance, you may know that someone was called something, but you don't necessarily say when that was in the past. It's also used when the action is still taking place in the present moment: he was called and is still called.

Singular
ich habe geheißenI have been called, I was named
du hast geheißenyou have been called, you were named
er hat geheißen 
sie hat geheißen
es hat geheißen
he has been named, he was named
she has been named, she was named
it has been named, it was named
Plural
wir haben geheißenwe have been named/called, our name was
ihr habt geheißenyou (guys) have been named/called, your name was
sie haben geheißenthey have been named/called, their name was
Sie haben geheißenyou have been named/called, your name was

Heissen in the Past Perfect Tense (Plusquamperfekt)

In the past perfect tense (pluquamperfekt), you will use heissen if someone was called something before another action took place.

A good example of this may be when a woman gets married and takes her husband's last name: "Jane's name was Becker before she married Tom."

Singular
ich hatte geheißenI had been named/called, my name had been
du hattest geheißenyou had been named/called, your name had been
er hatte geheißen
sie hatte geheißen
es hatte geheißen
he had been named/called, his name had been
she had been named/called, her name had been
it had been named/called, its name had been
Plural
wir hatten geheißenwe had been named/called, our name had been
ihr hattet geheißenyou (guys) had been named/called, your name had been
sie hatten geheißenthey had been named/called, their name had been
Sie hatten geheißenyou had been named/called, your name had been