How to Write an Informal French Letter
An informal letter is useful for non-official purposes and is usually addressed to a friend, a family member, or a casual acquaintance.
Informal letters can be written for a variety of reasons, such as inviting French friends to your birthday party, baby shower, or even your wedding. Additionally, you may choose to send an informal email to congratulate a friend or ask for their assistance.
Perhaps you have moved to France and are learning the language, or you might have a French pen pal with whom you correspond. Writing in French is a nice way to make progress towards fluency, and it shows your French friends that you care about their culture and language.
How to Date a French Letter
Dating your French letter is only relevant if you are sending a paper letter and not an email. It is however a nice touch, and it lets your recipient know exactly when the letter was written. This can be useful if your letter gets delayed in the mail or if you are sending it to another part of the world.
You should write the date in the upper left-hand corner. The first thing you will need is the day of the week:
- Lundi (Monday)
- Mardi (Tuesday)
- Mercredi (Wednesday)
- Jeudi (Thursday)
- Vendredi (Friday)
- Samedi (Saturday)
- Dimanche (Sunday)
You will then write the date, followed by the month and the year. For example «Jeudi 15 Avril 2021». In French, months go as follows:
- Janvier (January)
- Février (February)
- Mars (March)
- Avril (April)
- Mai (May)
- Juin (June)
- Juillet (July)
- Août (August)
- Septembre (September)
- Octobre (October)
- Novembre (November)
- Décembre (December)
How to Greet the Recipient
Once it is properly dated, you need to start your French letter by naming your recipient. Usually, the greeting is written in the upper left-hand side of the page.
If you want, you can use a salutation before your recipient’s name:
Chère amie (feminine)
Cher ami (masculine)
If you are writing to an older person or someone you want to show respect to, you can address them as such:
Chère Madame Smith
Dear Mrs. Smith
Cher Monsieur Dupont
Dear Mr. Dupont
If you are writing an open letter or if you are unsure about who will read your letter first, you can choose to address it this way:
À qui de droit
To whom it may concern
Cher Monsieur, chère Madame
Dear Sir or Madam
How to Begin an Informal Letter in French
Once your letter is dated and your recipient is greeted, you need to write the introductory paragraph. The purpose of the first paragraph is to set the tone and to inform your reader as to why you are writing your letter.
To start an informal letter on a pleasant note, it's thoughtful to express your concern for the well-being of your recipient. Below are some French phrases that exemplify this approach:
J’espère que vous allez bien
I hope you are doing well
J’espère que vous avez passé une belle fin de semaine avec votre famille et vos amis.
I hope you spent a great weekend with your friends and family.
J’espère que toute la famille se porte bien.
I hope the whole family is doing well.
J’espère que vous profitez bien de vos vacances jusqu’à maintenant.
I hope you are enjoying your vacation so far.
Then, you need to let your recipient know the purpose of your letter. For example, you could be inviting them to assist one of your special events:
Je vous écris pour vous inviter à assister à ma fête d’anniversaire.
I am writing to invite you to attend my birthday party.
Je vous envoie cette lettre afin de vous inviter à célébrer notre mariage avec nous.
I am sending you this letter to invite you to celebrate our wedding with us.
J’aimerais t’inviter à célébrer le trentième anniversaire de mariage de mes parents.
I would love to invite you to celebrate my parents’ thirtieth wedding anniversary.
If you are writing simply to inquire about them or to get some news, you could say something like:
Je t’écris car il y a bien longtemps que je n’ai pas reçu de tes nouvelles.
I am writing to you because it has been a long time since I have heard from you.
Je t’écris afin de prendre de tes nouvelles.
I am writing to know how you are doing.
Sometimes, we also write an informal letter to announce some bad news. If this was the case, you could write:
Malheureusement, j’ai de tristes nouvelles à t’annoncer.
Unfortunately, I have sad news for you.
Je n’aime pas rapporter de mauvaises nouvelles, mais…
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but…
How to Write the Body of your French Letter
Once you have announced the main purpose of your letter, you need to fill out the body with your message. You should adjust the language and the wording based on who you are writing the letter to.
If you are writing to a friend, you can be casual and use humor. If you are writing to an elder relative or a co-worker, you should make an effort to stay respectful throughout your letter.
Writing to a Friend or Family Member
You can use this time to let them know about how school or work is going for you. Here are some example French phrases for this:
Je travaille toujours au même endroit, et je devrais bientôt recevoir une promotion.
I still work at the same place, and I should be getting promoted soon.
Je termine mon programme d’études en sciences dans quelques mois.
I will be completing my science degree in a few months.
We have a full article on the topic of talking about yourself in French. An informal letter is a good place to talk about your new favorite pastimes using French phrases such as these:
J’ai récemment découvert la photographie et j’adore.
I recently discovered photography and I am loving it.
J’ai commencé à faire de la course à pied il y a quelques mois.
I started running a few months ago.
Often, sharing some family news is appropriate when writing an informal letter.
John et moi attendons notre deuxième enfant!
John and I are expecting our second child!
Après notre mariage, nous partons pour notre lune de miel en France.
After our wedding, we will leave for our honeymoon in France.
Je ne peux pas croire que notre plus vieux quitte la maison pour aller à l’université.
I cannot believe our eldest is leaving home to go to college.
Malheureusement, ma mère nous a quittés la semaine passée.
Unfortunately, my mother passed away last week.
Nous allons prendre des vacances familiales au mois d’octobre.
We are going to take a family vacation in October.
Writing to A Coworker
These sentences might also be useful if you are writing an informal email in French to one of your coworkers:
Je me demandais à quelle heure sera la prochaine réunion.
I was wondering at what time will the next meeting be.
Je voudrais discuter du dernier rapport que tu m’as envoyé.
I wanted to discuss the last report you sent me.
Je voulais savoir ton opinion sur la présentation que j’ai préparée.
I wanted to know your opinion concerning the presentation I prepared.
Je voulais te remercier pour ton aide avec mon dernier projet.
I wanted to thank you for your help with my last project.
N’oublie pas la rencontre de vendredi matin.
Do not forget the meeting on Friday morning.
J’aimerais discuter avec toi des points importants à aborder lors de la prochaine réunion.
I would like to discuss with you some important points for the next meeting.
Quel candidat préfères-tu demander en entrevue?
Which candidate do you prefer to ask for an interview?
Wrapping up Your French Letter
In the last paragraph, you can start by summarizing the points you have touched on in your letter. This might not always be necessary, but it can be useful in certain cases.
For example, if you wrote an email to discuss the next work meeting, you could end by saying:
N’oubliez pas, la prochaine rencontre se déroulera vendredi à 9h00 dans l’auditorium A. Vous devrez apporter une liste de suggestions pour notre prochain projet.
Do not forget, the next meeting will be Friday at 9:00 AM in auditorium A. You will need to bring a list of suggestions for our next project.
Un dernier rappel: envoyez-moi vos rapports avec les informations détaillées dans ce courriel d’ici lundi prochain.
A last reminder: send me your reports with the information detailed in this email by next Monday.
If you wrote to friends and family to invite them to a special event, you should also summarize all the important details in the last paragraph. These example French phrases show how this is done:
On vous attend en grand nombre, lundi le 12 juin à 15h00 pour célébrer notre mariage.
Come one, come all on Monday, June 12th at 3:00 PM to celebrate our wedding.
Le petit Mathieu vous attend avec impatience samedi prochain à 10h00 au [insert address] pour célébrer son premier anniversaire.
Little Mathieu is impatiently waiting for you next Saturday at 10:00 AM at [insert address] to celebrate his first birthday.
After summarizing the important information, it's time to conclude with a brief closing statement.
For example, you can let your reader know that you have attached some additional documents to your letter. Here are a few sample French phrases that you may find helpful:
Veuillez consulter la liste des invités jointe à ce courriel.
Please see the guest list attached to this email.
Je vous envoie les photos de nos dernières vacances avec cette lettre.
I am sending you the photos of our last vacation with this letter.
Veuillez remplir le formulaire joint à ce courriel et nous le renvoyer dans les plus brefs délais.
Please complete the form attached to this email and send it back to us as soon as possible.
You also might want to add something like:
J’attends impatiemment votre prochaine lettre.
I look forward to your next letter.
Veuillez répondre à ce courriel pour confirmer sa réception.
Please reply to this email to confirm you have received it.
Veuillez nous faire parvenir vos disponibilités pour que nous puissions arranger une rencontre en personne.
Please send us your availabilities so that we can finally arrange to meet.
Je pense fort à vous et j’ai hâte de vous voir.
I think of you very much and I look forward to seeing you.
Veuillez me laisser savoir si vous avez besoin de quoi que ce soit d’autre.
Please let me know if you need anything else.
Although there is no official approach to concluding an informal letter in French, a number of commonly used phrases are available:
Je vous envoie mes pensées amicales
Recevez, je vous prie, mes meilleures amitiés
Je vous prie d’agréer à l’expression de mes sentiments les plus distingués,
Yours sincerely, [much more formal version]
See you soon,
The last step is to sign your name. Depending on who you are writing the letter to, you can use your full name, your first name, or even your nickname.
Here are some useful tips to add some personality and style to your writing. First, if you are writing a letter, use lined paper or a ruler to write in straight lines. This will make your writing clearer and easier to read.
Second, if you are writing to a friend or a family member, you can make it fun by using colored pens. Make sure the ink is dark enough to contrast with the white paper. If you are using a computer, choose a fun font that you think your friend might appreciate.
Another idea is to ask your children to draw in the margins of your letter. This is especially great if you are writing to friends and/or family members.
You might also be interested in reading this guide on writing a love letter in French.