• France's news in English
French writing phrases you can't get your head around
Photo: Ray Sadler/Flickr

French writing phrases you can't get your head around

The Local · 27 Sep 2016, 14:59

Published: 27 Sep 2016 14:59 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
If you're ever received (or worse, had to write) a formal French letter, then you'll know how absurdly difficult they can be to understand (and compose). 
Here's a list of some of the most commonly occurring greetings, phrases, and sign-offs that you need to know before putting pen to paper. Perhaps the best thing is, you just don't need to understand some of them, just to learn them off by heart.
Starting a letter
There are rules galore for how you start off a letter, so if you want to make a good impression then take note. 
Forget Cher
Never assume that you can start off a formal letter with the French word for "Dear" - Cher, or Chère if you're writing to a woman - unless you're sure you can get away with it (a letter to family, or a friend for example). 
Begin formally 
If you're unsure who to send the letter or email to, write:
Monsieur (or Messieurs) - meaning Sir (or Sirs). Sexist, sure. 
If you do know the surname of the person, go for:
Monsieur Dupois or Madame Dupois, for example. 
Photo: alecska/Flickr
Continue formally
There are loads of useful little phrases for letter writing in French that regularly crop up, all longer and far more complicated than their English cousins. Here are a few. Just learn them, don't try to understand them.
Je vous prie de bien vouloir me faire savoir... Can you please let me know...
Je vous prie d'avoir l'obligeance de... Would you please be so kind as to...
Veuillez trouver ci-joint... Please find enclosed/attached...
Nous vous serions reconnaissants de nous faire parvenir.... We'd be grateful if you could send us...
N'hésitez pas à me contacter le cas échéant... Do not hesitate to contact me if need be...
Dans l'attente de votre réponse... Looking forward to hearing from you...
Here are a few more examples courtesy of Laura K Lawless over at About Education.
Je suis au regret de vous faire savoir que.. I'm sorry to inform you that...
Je me permets de vous signaler que... Allow me to inform you that...
Je vous remercie de votre lettre du [date]... Thank you for your letter dated...
Je vous adresse, sous pli séparé ... I'm sending you, under separate cover....
Je vous serais très obligé de bien vouloir... I would be obliged if you could be so kind as to...
Photo: anna/Flickr
Story continues below…
End it formally
If you thought the intro was formal, get your teeth around these formal (and admittedly clunky) ways to essentially say "Yours sincerely" in French. 
Je vous prie de bien vouloir agréer l’expression de mes salutations distingués 
Veuillez recevoir, Monsieur/Madame, nos salutations distingués 
Veuillez agréer, Monsieur/Madame, l’assurance de notre parfait considération. 
Je vous prie de croire, Monsieur/Madame, à l’assurance de mes salutations distinguées
Or, lastly, you could tone it down if you think you can get away with it:
"Meilleures salutations" or "Salutations distinguées".
Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
The fantastic new Bordeaux wine museum. Photo: AFP

After The Local France, the Lonely Planet has followed suit by urging everyone to head to Bordeaux in 2017.

Jungle shacks set ablaze and torn down as camp razed
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: The razing of the Jungle has finally begun.

Frenchwoman finds WW1 grenade among her spuds
Photo: AFP

It could have been a very explosive family dinner.

Refugee crisis
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Photo: AFP

What does the future hold for the migrants of the Jungle? Can they work or claim social benefits or travel freely inside Europe?

Pampers nappies 'contain carcinogenics': French study
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flick

The substances in the nappies are meant to prevent skin irritation but are cancerous, the study concludes.

France to scrap special prison wings for dangerous jihadists
Photo: AFP

The experiment has been ditched.

Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP

Hold on, aren't the French all meant to be finely toned specimens with not an ounce of fat on them?

France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

UK to spend €40 million on securing Calais border
Photo: AFP

Britain spending big on security in Calais.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available