Learn French - How To Write a Letter in French
It could happen that you want to write a letter in French : job hunting, communicate with a friend, write a love letter…So, comment écrire une lettre ? Rien de plus simple. But then, you’ll also have to understand the answer.
The formal way to write a letter uses some « formes de politesse ».
« Madame, Monsieur, » (when you don’t know if you are talking to a man or a woman, and you don’t know the person anyway) should start the letter. If you want to be a little less formal, you can use « Chère Madame, Cher Monsieur, » but it’s recommanded that you know the person a bit.
If the person happens to have a title : « Monsieur le Directeur, » (Mr the CEO), and so on.
Always use « un langage soutenu », is it to say very polite, and use the polite « Vous ». Also, remember to use the most polite way of expressing your intention or goal : « Je souhaiterais » instead of « Je veux ». As a rule of thumb, use the « Conditionnel » tense when you speak of what you think and what you want.
In the same way, when you ask something, use « Je vous prie » instead of any other forms (« Pouvez-vous or S’il vous plaît, are not formal enought). For exemple, if you want to say the person to be assured of your motivation : « Soyez assuré de ma motivation » « Soyez assuré de mon engagement à ».
If you send a CV with your letter add the sentence : « Veuillez trouver ci-joint une copie de mon CV. »
After you exposed, brilliantly, what you want to speak about or how you would be marvelous for the job, you have to go for the thanks.
« En vous remerciant par avance » means you are thanking them before they answer you. It’s better to use this sentence, for exemple as follows : « En vous remerciant par avance de la bienveillance avec laquelle vous examinerez ma demande. »
Or use the more simple : « Dans l’attente d’une réponse favorable de votre part, » a polite and formal way to say you will be waiting for the answer, is it to say, you do care.
There are many levels of politeness, and being to polite can prove rude. You’ll have to use different phrases based on the fact you know the person or not, and it’s your first contact or not.
« Je vous prie d’agréer, Madame, Monsieur, mes plus sincères salutations. »
« Recevez Monsieur, mes sincères salutations » are ways to express salutations to someone you don’t know.
« Veuillez recevoir, Monsieur, Madame, l’expression de mes sentiments distingués » can be use with someone you don’t know, but not at the first contact. You can vary : « …mes sentiments les meilleurs. » or « …mes sentiments respectueux. »
When you know the person, you can use « Je vous prie de croire, Madame, Monsieur, à l’assurance de ma considération distinguée ». Don’t use this sentence with some you don’t know, it will have the opposite effect.
Once you are done expressing your gratitude, you can conclude by « Cordialement » or « Très cordialement » when you speak to a person you don’t know or are not a friend of. « Chaleureusement » or « Respectueusement » are more appropriate to someone you know or are a friend of.
« Amicalement » is used for a friend, and « Tendrement » or « Affectueusement » is better used for a family member or a lover.
When you receive a letter, it’s a bit more complex, so here are some phrases that can help you decrypt what is going on.
« Nous avons bien reçu votre courrier en date du 15 avril », will let you know you did’nt made any mistake in the address. « Nous accusons réception de votre demande », « C’est avec beaucoup d’intérêt que nous avons pris connaissance de votre proposition » or « En réponse à votre courrier du 15 avril » are all ways to state that the letter was received and read. But if the answer starts like « Nous sommes toujours sans réponse de votre part », it means your letter was not received.
« Nous examinons actuellement votre proposition » means your case is being reviewed. « Nous regrettons de ne pas pouvoir donner suite » means it has been rejected.
Actually, you can receive alot of kind of official letters, for alot of purposes
« Nous attirons votre attention sur le fait que » means that you have to understand something.
« Nous nous permettons de vous rappeler que » means, often, that they are a bit angry at you.
« Nous vous remercions par avance de » means they are expecting something from you.
« Nous vous adressons toutes nos félicitations pour » means they are congratulating you.
« En vous renouvelant nos excuses » means they are apologizing to you.
« Nous vous remercions par avance de bien vouloir nous adresser une réponse rapide » means they want you to answer ASAP.
« Nous vous saurions gré de » is a way for them to ask you something. It’s polite, but never use it, expect if you are angry at or in superior position to the person you are writing to.
« Nous nous voyons dans l’obligation de » means they will punish you. If you ever have to ask for some time before paying or else, use the sentence « Je me permets de solliciter un délai de »
With that in mind, you can now try to go for a letter, using your best French ever.
Writing letters is a good way to learn French. Having new penpal friends who speak the language you’re learning will give you a chance to put into words what you’ve learned in grammar, vocabulary …, the point is to make an effort constructing phrases and expressions, both by using a dictionary and from what you’ve learned in general, in many ways writing letters to penpals will certainly help you a lot in your learning path.
Below is a sample of an English/ French letter that you may take as an example to your first step in having pen pals, or simply for the purpose of introducing yourself in French, you will notice that I sometimes include more than one possibility, for example you will find more than one nationality in the same phrase (English/ British), that way you can choose the most appropriate to you, modify it, delete, or add whatever you want, if you need some more vocabulary check the home page, also you will be able to find some additional phrases at the phrases page...
The English Letter Sample
My name is Paul., I started learning French lately, and I thought it's a good idea to have some penpal friends who speak the language, that way I can practice what I learned in French, and make new friends at the same time.
Let me tell you more about myself, I'm 26 years old, I’m a young (1) American / British (2) male (3), I live in Washington/ London (4), I study languages (5), I work as a surgeon/ carpenter/ mechanic (6), English (7) is my native language, I have one brother (8), one sister (9), I have one son (10), one daughter (10), I live with my parents (11), I live by myself (12), I'm single (13), I’m married (14).
In my free time I like to listen to music (15), watch movies, documentaries... I like to travel and meet new people...and much more.
I want to learn French because I love it, I also want to learn it for my job/ my husband/ my wife (16)/ my sons (17), and above all I think it's a nice language.
As you can see, I can already write in French, but I still need to improve, because my vocabulary is limited, and I also use a dictionary a lot.
I hope to receive a letter from you soon, with information about yourself and what you like to do ...I also hope that you can help me improve my level in French.
I think that's all for now, take care and have a nice!
The French Letter Example
(to address a female we add an extra e)
I tried to put numbers at the end of some expressions so that you would know which is which in case you’re confused, obviously you need to delete the expressions that don’t correspond to your personality, also some numbered expressions may have other alternatives, for example:
(1, 3) = young female = une jeune femme. Man = homme. Woman = femme. (2) for nationalities you can check the vocabulary pages.
(4) = for countries, check the vocabulary pages or look them up online if your country is not listed here.
(5, 7) = for other professions and languages check out my vocabulary pages.
(8 - 17) = delete the ones that don’t apply to you.
As mentioned before, some nouns/ and adjectives may take an extra “e” to form the feminine, like the professions, nationalities (unless it already ends in “e”), married = marié (if you’re a male), mariée (if you’re a female).