Let me guess. You are reading this post because you want to know how to compose emails in the German language. Well, you have come to the right place because whether you are looking to end a formal letter to the Bundesamt or looking to write an informal email to your German friend, Tandem has every scenario covered.
Are you also learning French? Check our our blog post on how to sign off an email in French!
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Written communication in German can sometimes be problematic as German is a language that distinguishes between formal and informal manners of address.
Sie Vs. du
Before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), you need to understand to whom you are addressing and the nature of the relationship. This then determines whether to address the person as Sie (formal “you”) or du (informal “you”), followed by the correct conjugation of the verb.
A few notes to keep in mind…
Sie has an obligatory capital S at all times and other polite forms include Ihr(e) and Ihnen. Another note of importance is that Sie is the default form for business letters and all other types of German business communication.
First name Vs. last name
As Germany is a more formal society, you also need to decide whether to address the person by first name or title and last name. Much like with Sie and du, it’s best to err on the side of caution and adopt the more formal manner, unless they have stated otherwise.
Moral of the story, it's better to be more formal when in doubt!
The following suggestions also apply when writing a letter. You may think that it’s not necessary to write a letter in German nowadays, however, Germany still relies on the good old fashioned Deutsche Post for many matters of official business.
Sehr geehrter Herr…,
This is a formal opening if you are writing to a man whose name you know. You would include their surname after Herr.
Sehr geehrte Frau…,
Same as above but to a woman whose name you know. You would include their surname after Frau.
Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,
This greeting is used when the addressee is unknown. Translated directly, sehr geehrte means “very honored” but serves the same purpose as “dear Sir or Madam” in English letter salutations.
This one requires little explanation. Meaning “hello”, this can be used for both male and female addressees in an informal letter or email.
This is the most common opening for a German email or letter. It is the equivalent of "dear" in English. This is only used when addressing female friends or relatives.
Same as above but used when addressing male friends or relatives.
Note, however, that unlike in English, you start the body of the email with a lowercase letter in German. Furthermore, one common mistake that you do not want to make is to use the wrong adjective ending. This does not start the correspondence on the right foot!
Before the official sign off of a letter or email, it can be nice to politely wrap up with a short sentence.
Ich bedanke mich bei Ihnen im Voraus
I thank you in advance.
Ich würde mich freuen, bald von Ihnen zu hören
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Für weitere Auskünfte stehe ich Ihnen gerne zur Verfügung
I am readily available should you require additional information.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen
One of the most popular and widely used closing for formal occasions literally translates to “with friendly greetings.” You might also see it as “mfg” as a form of email lingo which is used in more casual situations.
Mit herzlichen Grüßen
This common formal term means “with best wishes”.
Mit besten Grüßen
This one translates to “best regards” or “with kind regards” in English.
Meaning “yours” in English, Ihre is used if you are female and Ihr if you are a male.
Viele Grüße or Liebe Grüße
These two are the most common and natural-sounding conclusions. You might also see it as “VG” or “LG” respectively in emails.
This is the equivalent of “regards” in English.
The English equivalent would be “take care!” or “take it easy!” and is typically only used in email.
Meaning “yours,” deine is used if you are female and dein if you are a male.
An important final note to remember that unlike in English, there is no comma after a concluding expression in German!