How to Write an Email in French: Tips for Formal & Friendly Exchanges


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How to Write an Email in French: Tips for Formal & Friendly Exchanges

Writing emails (known as a courrier electronique, message electronique or simply, mail) in French can be a challenge for expats, especially when it comes to the kind of language used and choosing the right level of formality. Our practical guide to writing an email in French has plenty of tips to get you started.

1. Decide between formal or informal

The first question to ask is whether to use “tu” or “vous” for your email. For more formal or professional emails, it’s best to go with “vous” – reserve “tu” for people that you know personally and already “tutoyer” in real life.

Bear in mind that in France, people use formalities much more than other cultures may be accustomed to, so if you are unsure, opt for “vous.”

2. Email greetings

As in everyday life, begin with a simple greeting. “Coucou” is an informal greeting for close friends, whereas you would use Monsieur or Madame for someone who you do not know and wish to be formal with. You could also use Chere Madame or Cher Monsieur with their surname.

3. How to start

It’s easy to get stuck on what to say when you’re writing in French, so keep it simple! Start by saying why you are writing. For example, “Je m’adresse à vous pour…”  I am writing to you to…

You could also say “Je voudrais vous expliquer…” I would like to explain… or “Je voudrais vous poser une question…” I would like to ask you a question…

One key difference in France, is that there isn’t generally a need for the pleasantries expected in many anglophone cultures. It’s quite normal to jump straight into a question or get right to the point, so don’t worry too much about crafting a friendly intro – unless you are writing to a friend and it comes naturally to ask after them, it isn’t required.

4. The main body of the email

Keep the content to the point and be clear about your expectations. Ensure your email has clear paragraphs and is well-structured. As with above, there is no need to pad out the email with additional pleasantries – you can be quite direct and to the point in a French email (which actually makes them much easier to write!!).

5. How to end the email

First of all, there are some standard closing phrases for formal emails. For example:

Nous nous tenons a votre disposition pour toutes questions – we are here to answer all your questions

Nous vous contacterons dans les plus brefs délais – we will contact you soon

Dans l’attente de votre réponse, nous vous prions d’agréer, Madame, Monsieur, nos salutations les meilleures – we look forward to hearing from you and send our best wishes

Follow this with one of these formal sign-offs:

Bien cordialement (Cordially / Best regards)

Salutations distinguees (Yours faithfully)

Bien a vous (Yours sincerely)

To friends, and less formally, you could use the much more familiar:

Bises, Bisous, A tout de suite, A très vite, Grosses bises.

Example emails

Here are two example emails:

Bonjour Madame,

J’aimerais connaître le prix de vos gâteaux. Pourriez-vous m’envoyer votre menu, s’il vous plaît ?

Je vous remercie d’avance.

Bonne journée.

Carol Paylor

Coucou mon amie,

Comment ça va ?

Ça fait longtemps qu’on ne s’est pas vus. Es-tu libre samedi soir car je suis en ville ?



The short and formal nature of a French email takes a little getting used to. These top tips should ease you into understanding the key elements. Bon courage!

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From shopping at the supermarket to sending a parcel at Post Office, finding your local dechetterie to who to call in an emergency—FrenchEntrée is here to help with every aspect of day-to-day living in France. Read our Essential Reading guides for advice on living in France, visit our Shopping zone or Pets zone, or brush up your language skills with our handy learning French resources.

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Carol, a teacher from Hurworth in Darlington, lives in Charente in South-West France, where she runs La Grue Gites with her family.

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