French writing phrases you can’t get your head around

Here's an inside look at some of the most excruciatingly formal French expressions in letter and email writing.

French writing phrases you can't get your head around
Photo: Ray Sadler/Flickr
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
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”.

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French elections: What is ‘parrainage’ and how does it affect candidates?

If you follow French politics, it's about this time that you will start to see a lot of mentions of parrainage - here's what that means and how it affects the race for the presidency.

French elections: What is 'parrainage' and how does it affect candidates?

The French word parrainage means sponsorship or guardianship and it comes from parrain – godfather.

Just as in English, parrain can be used in its literal sense for a child’s godfather (godmother is marraine) or a more general sense for anyone who is a powerful figure – the classic mafia movie The Godfather is Le Parrain in France.

But in the context of presidential elections it has a more specific meaning, which is to do with how you get onto the ballot paper.

In order to be a candidate in a French election you have to be a French citizen aged 18 years or over. 

But you also need to collect at least 500 signatures (or parrainages) from elected officials to back your campaign.

These can be from anyone elected to public office from village mayors to MPs, MEPs and Senator but there are some rules – the officials must come from at least 30 different French départements or overseas French territories and no more than 50 signatures can come from one département or overseas territory.

This year, candidates have until March 4th to gain the signatures they need, if you’re on French social media you may recently have spotted lots of obscure politicians tweeting pictures of either a signed form or a letter being popped into the postbox – they’re making a public declaration of their parrainage.

You don’t need to be on Twitter though, the names of all the officials who have given their signatures will be published on March 8th, along with the list of candidates who have gained the required 500 and therefore their place on the ballot paper. 

Until that date, the question of who has the required numbers of parrainages is the subject of a lot of speculation and newspaper headlines, as well as charts like the one below, which are generally based on public declarations of support.

You can follow all the latest news and explanations of the 2022 presidential election campaign HERE.