How do you write an email in French?
Let’s say you want to send an email to thank your teacher for your progress in French.
Should you use “Tu” or “Vous” ?
How do you start and end an email?
Which sentences can you use?
Let’s dive in.
Want all the vocabulary of the lesson ?
1) Write an email in French: Greetings
So what’s in an email, after l’objet (= the subject line) ?
Before diving into the heart of the email, let’s start with the first line.
It’s usually a greeting of some sort, such as:
- Bonjour (= Hello)
- Bonsoir (= Good evening)
- Salut (= Hi!, informal, with friends)
- Coucou (= Hi!, informal and a bit more intimate)
Just as in spoken French!
Click here to learn more: Mastering the Basics: French Greetings + How to Practice Your French
Or you can be more formal, and write your email like you’d write a letter:
- Monsieur, madame, (= Dear Sir / Madam, cold and formal, if you don’t know who’s going to read the letter.)
- Cher monsieur, (= Dear Sir, warmer but still formal)
- Chère madame, (= Dear Madam, same but for a woman)
We would never really use these in spoken French.
Here, Cher / chère means “dear,” but as you probably know, it also means “expensive” when talking about things you can buy.
- Une montre chère = an expensive watch
- Un ami cher / un cher ami = a dear friend
Le truc en + :
Some French adjectives have two meanings like “cher,” one more down-to-earth, the other more metaphorical. When the adjective comes after the noun, it’s usually the concrete meaning. When it comes before the noun, it’s usually the metaphorical meaning.
For instance : un grand homme = a great man, un homme grand = a tall man.
By the way, Chéri (Chérie / Mon chéri / Ma chérie) means “my love, my dear.” Don’t make the embarrassing mistake of sending that greeting to your French teacher instead of “cher” !
It’s becoming more common to start an email the “American way,” with simply the name of your reader: Géraldine, … (I’m not fond of this greeting in French.)
2) Write an email in French: Ending an email
Ending an email also relies on a few usual expressions:
- Bisous (= kisses) → Informal and intimate, for family and close friends
- Bonne journée (= Have a nice day) → Neutral, friendly
- Cordialement (= Cordially) → More formal. Common in letters and emails, never used in spoken French.
- Bien à vous (= Yours / Kind regards) → Formal but warm and friendly.
- Veuillez agréer, Madame, mes sincères salutations… (= Please accept, Madam, my sincere greetings…) → Very formal. I never used it, even in writing, and it’s never used in conversations.
We can use Bisous (with close friends and family) and Bonne journée (with anyone) in real spoken French conversation.
Variations on Bisous are a bit more outdated but more elegant:
- Bises = Kisses
- Grosses bises = “Big kisses”, hugs and kisses
- Bons baisers de Paris = “Big kisses from Paris” = From Paris with love
These are all “kisses” like la bise, the French informal greeting of an “air kiss”. It’s not a romantic thing!
Click here to learn more : French Culture Lesson — La Bise – Comme une Française
Finally, you can use “goodbye” like we use at the end of a conversation:
- À demain (= “See you tomorrow” – also applies for “writing tomorrow”)
- À bientôt (= “See you soon”)
- À très vite (= “See you very soon”)
3) Write an email in French: “Tu” or “Vous” ?
“Tu” (= singular “you”) is the informal, intimate pronoun to use when talking to friends and family. It conveys friendliness, closeness.
“Vous” (= plural “you”) is the respectful, more distant pronoun to use when talking to someone you don’t know and aren’t friends with, like a baker, a counter clerk or any administration. It conveys respect and formality.
There’s a grey area in the middle. For people you technically don’t know, that you do respect, but still want to be friendly with. For friends of friends for instance. Or an in-law. Or a teacher on the Internet that sends you an email every week! 😉
Well, it depends. Use what you’re comfortable with. Three thoughts on that:
- Some people will feel weird if you use “tu” with them. Especially if they’re people who are just doing their job.
- Some people will feel weird if you use “vous.” Since “vous” is often used for elders, it might make them feel old!
- So there’s no real “safe” pronoun here. But don’t worry! If you’re sincere and polite, nobody will mind which pronoun you use. You’re not fluent, you’re allowed to make mistakes, we understand.
Click here to learn more about “Tu” and “Vous” and how we switch between them: Tu or Vous? How to say “you” in French
In the examples for this lesson, I’ll use “tu,” but you can easily switch. And if you want to send me an email to thank me, I give you the permission to use “tu” !
4) Write an email in French: Thanking someone
Basic ways to thank someone in French:
- Merci (= Thank you) → The one used in everyday conversation; you need to know this essential French polite word.
- Merci beaucoup (= Thank you very much)
- Merci énormément (= Thank you so much, with more emphasis, less common)
- Merci pour tout. (= Thank you for everything.)
Click here to learn more about saying “thank you” in French : Learn to Say Thank You in French: What to say and correct pronunciation
- Merci pour ton aide (= Thank for your help.)
- Merci pour tout ce que tu as fait (= Thank you for everything you’ve done.)
- Ça m’a vraiment fait super plaisir ! (= “It really pleased me a lot” literally = I really loved it! – “super” is informal.)
If you’re sending an email to say thank you, the more precise you are, the better.
Explain how you feel, why their help mattered, what it allowed you to do now.
Merci énormément pour avoir gardé les enfants. Ça nous a beaucoup aidé, et on a pu enfin passer une soirée à deux avec Michel. Tu es vraiment très gentille ! (= Thank you so much for taking care of the kids. It helped us a lot, and we finally got to spend an evening with Michel, just the two of use. You’re really nice!)
And these are all sentences you can use in spoken French conversation as well!
But some “thanks” are used mostly in writing only. Especially “Merci de…” which is actually a command or a plea:
- Merci d’avance. = Thank you in advance.
- Merci de m’aider. = Thank you for helping me (in advance)
- Merci de me répondre rapidement (= Thank (in advance) you for answering promptly)
- Merci de ne pas toucher la vitre. (= Thank you for not touching the glass, on a sign in a zoo or a museum.)
You can use “Merci de…” (in advance) instead of “Merci pour…” (for something in the past), in an email. I’m not a fan though, it feels a bit passive-aggressive. Merci d’avance is fine though.
J’aimerais réserver une table dans votre restaurant avec des amis. Pouvez-vous m’envoyer vos menus, si possible ?
(= Hello Madam, I’d like to book a table in your restaurant, with some friends. Could you send me your menus, if possible? Thanks a lot, Have a great day, Julia)
5) Writing an email in French: Answer back
Basic answers to Merci :
- De rien (= You’re welcome) → Most basic, everyday French.
- Je t’en prie. / Je vous en prie. (= You’re welcome) → A bit more elegant.
- Pas de problème. (= No problem)
- Il n’y a pas de quoi. (= There’s no need [to thank me.])
But of course, it’s even better if you don’t deflect the good you did. You deserve to be thanked! Own it, and maybe tell them more about why you did it and how that made you feel. And soon you’re having a full conversation in French!
For now, Merci à toi ! (= Thank you.) You’re on your way to improve your French conversation, and that’s wonderful.
Learn more with these other free lessons:
- Learn to Say Thank You in French: What to say and correct pronunciation
- Tu or Vous? How to say “you” in French
- French Culture Lesson — La Bise
- Quoi in French: What It Means and How to Use It
- Explore France and understand fast spoken French : l’Alsace (and SLANG)
Pick one that looks interesting, click on the link, and I’ll see you in the next video!
À tout de suite.
(= See you very soon.)
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