How to write an email in French: the complete guide

“This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” - Neil Gaiman

Writing in a foreign language can seem like an insurmountable challenge. But since emails have become a crucial part of the way we communicate with each other, there is no escaping it.

This complete guide will detail the building blocks required to master the art of writing French emails in both formal and casual tones.

How to write formal emails in French

The general rules of email etiquette apply to the French language just as much as any other language. It would be wise to remember, however, that the French language is generally very formal.

Here are is some common terminology useful in the writing of French emails:

If the email is intended for a particular person but the email address isn’t specific, it is common to add following in the subject line:

It is worth mentioning that:

French email openings for formal correspondence

The opening of an email sets the tone throughout the correspondence.

In French, in particular, written correspondence remains quite formal. The use of the proper opening formula when writing a French email is important.

Here are different scenarios:

Table: French formal email openings
The recipient is unknown Madame, Monsieur,
or
Mesdames, Messieurs,
Sir, Madam,
The recipient is known - very formal Chère Madame / Cher Monsieur (Dupont), Dear Ms. / Mr. (Dupont),
The recipient is known - formal Bonjour Madame / Monsieur (Dupont), Good day Ms. / Mr. (Dupont),
The recipients are part of the same organization - formal Chers collègues
or
Chers collaborateurs,
Dear colleagues,
The recipients are part of the management À l’intention des chefs de service, To the department heads,

Note that the common “to whom it may concern” in English business emails can be translated into “à qui de droit”. However, this opening is quite archaic and not used much. The most common alternative is “Madame, Monsieur” which is suitable to all situations.

The body of a formal email in French

After having established the opening and set the tone, the next step is to clearly state the reason for the email being sent.

Here are various common French phrases for stating the purposes of an email:

Table: French phrases for stating the purpose of an email
Stating the purposes of an email
Je m’adresse à vous pour… I am writing you to…
Je prends la liberté de vous contacter pour… I have taken the liberty to contact you to…
Je vous écris au sujet de… I am writing to you regarding…
Je me permets de vous écrire concernant… I am writing to you regarding…
Suite à… Following…
En référence à… In reference to…
Table: French email phrases for thanking someone
To thank
J’aimerais vous remercier de… I would like to thank you for…
Je tiens à vous remercier… I would like to thank you for…
To thank (for a previous email)
Je vous remercie pour votre email du (date) I thank you for your email from (date)
To thank (for a meeting)
Merci d’avoir pris le temps de me rencontrer aujourd’hui. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today.
Merci de m’avoir reçu dans vos locaux hier. Thank you for having me in your offices yesterday.
Table: French email phrases for apologizing
To apologize for (…)
Je vous présente mes excuses pour (…) I would like to apologize for (…)
To apologize for a delay
Veuillez nous excuser / Veuillez m’excuser pour le retard Please accept our / my apologies for the delay
To apologize for a misunderstanding
Je vous prie d’excuser ce malentendu. Lit.: I pray for you to excuse this misunderstanding. Meaning: I apologize for this misunderstanding.
To apologize for the position being filled already
Nous regrettons de vous informer que le poste a déjà été pourvu. We regret to inform you that the position has already been filled.

Unlike for e.g Danish or Norwegian emails that tend to be short and straight-to-point, French emails may beat around the proverbial bush.

Here are some useful phrases to use when making a written request:

The tone of these phrases is very formal and as respectful as possible.

Here are a few more specific examples of French email phrases for various types of requests:

Table: French email phrases for various requests
To ask a question
J’ai une question concernant… I have a question about…
Je voudrais vous poser les questions suivantes: I would like to ask the following questions:
To ask for information
J’aimerais avoir des renseignements sur… I would like to receive information about…
Vous serait-il possible de m’envoyer… Could you possibly send me…
Je suis intéressé d’apprendre d’avantage sur… I would be interested in learning more about…
To ask for documents
Nous vous prions de bien vouloir nous faire parvenir les documents…. We ask you to kindly send us the documents…
To ask for a meeting
Nous vous proposons un rendez-vous à votre meilleure convenance. We propose a meeting at your earliest convenience.
Nous serions très heureux de vous rencontrer le (date). We would be happy to meet you on (date).
To ask for help
Je serais très reconnaissant(e) de votre aide. I would appreciate your help.
To ask for confirmation
Auriez-vous l’amabilité de me confirmer la réception des documents? Would you be so kind to confirm receipt of the documents?
Table: French email phrases for announcing or confirming events
To announce / confirm
J’ai le plaisir de vous informer que… I have the pleasure to inform you that…
…an invitation Vous êtes cordialement invité à notre évènement le mois prochain. You are cordially invited to our event next month.
…a meeting Je vous confirme notre rendez-vous demain matin et je me réjouis de faire votre connaissance. I confirm our meeting tomorrow morning and I look forward to meeting you.
…available time Je suis disponible mercredi de 8 à 14 heures. I am available Wednesday from 8 to 2 pm.

Here are some pointers to use when the email contains attachments:

Table: French email phrases for mentioning attachments
Veuillez trouver en pièce jointe… Please find attached….
Ci-joint... Attached
Comme convenu au téléphone, je vous envoie le document. As discussed over the phone, I am sending you the document.

Before signing off, it is customary to finish with a short conclusion, such as:

Table: French email phrases for concluding before the sign off
Je reste à votre disposition pour toute autre question. I remain at your disposal for any other question (equivalent to: Should you have any other question).
N’hésitez pas à me solliciter pour toute information supplémentaire. Do not hesitate to reach out to me for any additional information.
Nous vous serions reconnaissant de bien vouloir nous faire parvenir votre réponse avant le (date). We would be grateful for your response before the (date).
En vous remerciant par avance Thank you in advance
Nous vous remercions de votre compréhension. We thank you for your understanding.
Je me réjouis de votre réponse. I look forward to your answer.

How to end a formal email in French

Professional correspondence in French always ends with a “formule de politesse” (closing formula).

These will sound significantly more formal than their English counterparts.

A very short “formule de politesse” can be seen as a lack of consideration or respect.

Some typical examples of sign offs for French formal emails are:

Table: French formal email sign offs
Very formal (used for clients, superiors and prospective employers)
Je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur / Madame, l’assurance de ma considération la plus distinguée. Lit.: Please accept, Sir/Madam, the assurance of my highest consideration.
Je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur/Madame, l’expression de mes sentiments respectueux. Lit.: Please accept, Sir / Madam, the expression of my respectful sentiments.
Je vous prie de recevoir, Monsieur/Madame, l’expression de mon profond respect. Lit.: Please accept, Sir/Madam, the expression of my profound respect.
Veuillez agréer, Monsieur / Madame, mes salutations les plus sincères. Please accept, Sir / Madam, my most sincere regards.
More French formal email sign offs
Salutations distinguées Best regards
Bien à vous Kind regards
Avec mes remerciements, With thanks
Cordialement Sincerely

The following is an example of how to write an email to a prospective client that has been previously contacted via phone.

Cher M. Dupont,

Suite à notre conversation téléphonique ce matin, je vous écris pour vous remercier du temps que vous m’avez accordé.

Comme convenu, je vous fait parvenir les informations sur le projet XYZ en pièce jointe.

Afin de mieux pouvoir déterminer vos attentes, je vous propose un rendez-vous dans nos locaux à votre meilleure convenance.

N’hésitez pas à me solliciter pour toute information supplémentaire.

Veuillez agréer, Monsieur, mes salutations les plus sincères.

Pierre Petit


Dear Mr. Dupont,

Following our conversation over the phone this morning, I am writing you to thank you for your time.

As discussed, I am sending you the information on project XYZ as an attachment.

To better determine your requirements, I would like to propose a meeting in our offices at your most convenient time.

Do not hesitate to reach out to me for any additional information.

Please accept, Sir, my most sincere regards.

Pierre Petit

How to write an out-of-office email in French

Here are 2 examples of typical out-of-office emails in French:

Merci pour votre courriel. Je suis absent(e) et serai de retour le 8 janvier. En cas d’urgence, vous pouvez contacter (name) au name@email.com ou par téléphone au 123-456789.

Thank you for your email. I will be absent and will return on the 8th of January. In case of emergency, you may contact (name) at name@email.com or by phone at 123-456789.

Merci de votre message. Je serai absent(e) du 15 juillet au 1er aôut. Votre e-mail a été transmis à Jacques Dupont (jdupont@email.com). Il répondra à votre demande dans les meilleurs délais.

Thank you for your message. I will be absent from the 15th of July to the 1st of August. Your email has been forwarded to Jacques Dupont (jdupont@email.com). He will get back to you as soon as possible.

How to write casual emails in French

French email openings for casual correspondence

Table: casual French email opening phrases
Cher / Chère (name), Dear (name),
Salut (name), Hello / Hi (name),
Coucou (name), Hi (name),

The body of a casual email in French

Here are some useful phrases to use when writing an informal email in French.

Table: French phrases for casual emails
Comment ça va? How are you?
Quoi neuf? What’s new?
J’espère que vous allez bien. I hope you are all doing well.
Je t’écris pour… I am writing you to…
Je te remercie pour… Thank you for…
Y’a pas de quoi… meaning: You’re welcome (but quite informal)

How to end a casual email in French

Table: French sign offs for informal emails
Bonne journée, Have a nice day
Bon weekend, Have a good weekend
Cordialement, Amicablement
Amicalement, Amicably
Tous mes voeux, All my wishes,
Bises or Bisous Kisses
À bientôt or À plus Lit.: until later
A+ Abbreviation of “à plus”
(quite informal)

Other useful tips when writing French emails

The difference between “tu” and “vous” is intricate in establishing the level of formality in a correspondence.

Unlike in English, the French have two ways of saying “you”:

Tu - the singular form of “you”. It implies intimacy and informality.

Vous - in its singular form, “vous” is used to refer to a stranger, a person of authority, older person, in most business and customer relationship

When used in the plural form, “vous” refers to a group of people, regardless of the formality.

Conclusion

Learning how to write an email in French might sound daunting at first, but with this step-by-step guide, you are now equipped to tackle this challenge and immerse yourself in the French language even further.