Writing letters can be stressful to a lot of people…. and even more so when you have to do it in French! Today we will make writing letters in French a lot easier with this simple guide on how to write a letter in French.
In this lesson, you'll learn the words, phrases, and expressions for starting and ending your letter plus tips and examples.
You get an extra lesson on how to write emails in French, too!
I. Greetings/ Salutations for French Letters
To start writing a letter in French, you need the proper salutation and the correct title of the person you are writing to.
Salutations for French Personal Letters
For personal correspondence, you can choose between the following scenarios and salutations.
If you know the person, you can use the following:
Cher Monsieur ______
Dear Mr. ______
Chère Madame ______
Dear Mrs. _______
Mon cher Pierre
My dear Pierre
Ma très chère Louise
My dearest Louise
For personal correspondence where you do not know the person you are writing to, you can choose from the following:
Salutations for French Formal Letters
For business letters, salutations are very formal and include the recipient’s title as needed. You may use the following salutations:
Monsieur le Directeur
Monsieur le Ministre
Take note of proper spacing when writing punctuations in French. When writing a sentence with a question mark or an exclamation point, there should be a space before and after it. For example: Bonjour ! Ça va ?
The same applies to writing colons and semi-colons, as well as quotation marks.
II. How to close your letter
Just like the salutations, you will also need to use the correct closing at the end of your letter.
Closing Expressions for French Personal letters
For personal letters to acquaintances or friends that still require a level of formality, you may end it using the following French email closings:
Je vous envoie mes amicales pensées.
Works like "Best wishes" but literally means "sending my friendly thoughts to you"
Recevez, je vous prie, mes meilleures amitiés.
Je vous adresse mon très amical souvenir.
Cordialement (à vous)
Votre ami dévoué(e)
Your devoted friend
With warm regards; Warmly
Sincerely; In friendship
Best wishes, All the best
Bien à vous, Bien à toi
À bientôt !
See you soon!
With fond thoughts
Please note that the translations are not exactly the same, but they more or less express the same thought.
For informal letters to close friends and family, you may be very liberal in showing your fondness to the person by using the following informal closing:
Je t’ embrasse (bien fort)
Take note that the above closing expressions are similar to saying "hugs and kisses" or "XOXO" in English. You simply cannot use it to close a letter to, let's say, your boss or the hiring manager in the job you're eyeing.
Closing Expressions for French Formal or Business Letters
Bien à vous*
Je vous prie d’agréer, <insert the same title you used in your greetings> l’expression de mes sentiments distingués.
Please accept,______, the expression of my highest consideration.
Je vous prie d’agréer, <insert the same title you used in your greetings> l’expression de mes meilleures salutations.
Please accept,______ , the expression of my best regards.
*These two are not too formal, and could be used for less formal situations.
Again, please take note that the above translations are more or less the equivalent expressions in English.
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III. Some example French letters
Let’s take a look at two sample letters below. The first one is a personal letter and the second is a business letter.
Example 1: Personal Letter
C’est avec plaisir que je vous écris. L’envie me prend soudainement de vous conter l’une de mes nombreuses aventures...
Je vous envoie mes bien amicales pensées. À bientôt !
It is with pleasure that I’m writing to you. The urge suddenly takes me to tell you of one of my many adventures …
Best wishes. See you soon!
Example 2: Business Letter
Je me permets de vous écrire concernant l’offre de poste...
Je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur, l’expression de mes sentiments distingués.
Allow me to write you about the job offer...
Please accept, sir, the expression of my highest consideration.
IV. Additional Tips in Letter-Writing
Of course, starting and ending a letter written in French is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are more tips in writing letters in French.
Bonus: How to write an email in French
Let's face it, writing an email in French is another hurdle you must surpass. Whether you're writing an email to your boss, a colleague, or someone you barely know, you gotta make sure everything's in place before you hit the send button.
No worries to you because we're going to discuss here how to write emails, too!
Did you know?
La nétiquette refers to the French practice of writing good online correspondence especially emails.
How to end formal emails
Like in English, there are also a set of email phrases and expressions commonly used when signing off in formal emails. Aside from the usual "merci" or "merci beaucoup", here are some ways on how to sign off an email in French:
Cordially, used like "best regards"
Bien à vous
Yours truly, yours sincerely
Merci par avance
Thanks in advance
Merci par avance pour votre compréhension
Thanks in advance for your understanding
Je reste à votre disposition pour tout renseignement complémentaire
Feel free to contact me for any further information
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Letter-writing is still a necessary skill despite the many new forms of communication available today. I hope this short guide will help solve your woes on how to write letters in French. Hopefully, you learned something about writing emails in French, too!
For the complete lesson on French letters including audio guides and exercises, grab your copy of My French Routine, a complete learning series that you could use to learn French independently from beginner level to advanced.
This particular lesson is part of the course Complete Advanced French Course. Check it out now on the Talk in French Store!