How to start, write and end a letter in German [formal + informal]

“Dear reader,

Today I picked up my pen to write to you about the long lost art of letter writing.”

We all know how to text and send quick emails full of abbreviations but when was the last time you sat down to write someone a letter with pen and paper? Taking the time to do this will show the other person you’ve put in some real effort, which is likely to get you what you want - whether you’re trying to impress a German love interest, writing a complaint letter to a German company or asking that nice German-speaking sales rep about the delicious perfume you didn’t get the chance to buy.

Getting those letters right demonstrates your commitment to effective cross-cultural communication and impresses the other person. So we’ll teach you exactly how to write a letter in German.

Why learn how to write a letter in German?

In German-speaking countries, it’s still fairly common to write letters, especially to formal offices or your bank. These are often the kind of important letters you want to get just right - but watch out!
Writing a letter in German is not just like writing an English letter in a different language.

There are a number of things to take into account that will be different - starting with the size. In Germany, all standard mail comes in the size A4, not letterbox. It’s what people print their documents on and the size you’ll see in all stationery.

Next up, you wanna get your format and tone of voice right, and make sure your greeting and sign off are appropriate. Luckily there are a number of fool-proof words and phrases you can learn or copy and once you get them right, you’ll come off as a sophisticated German-speaker.

Learn how to write a letter in German.

Key letter writing vocabulary to keep in mind

Let’s get started with these important letter-related words.

Der BriefLetter
Der BriefkastenMailbox
Der BriefumschlagEnvelope
Die BriefmarkePostage stamp
Das PostamtPost office
Die AdresseAddress
Die PostleitzahlPostcode
Der AbsenderSender
Der EmpfängerRecipient
Die UnterschriftSignature
Der Postbote, die PostbotinPostman, postwoman
Die A4 GrößeA4 size (German Standard Letter Size)
LetterboxLetterbox (US Standard Letter Size)
Der BriefumschlagEnvelope
Der BriefkopfLetterhead
Die E-MailEmail
Die PostPost mail

Formatting a letter in German

If you’re talking to a friend or a loved one, you can obviously relax about formatting your letter - but for any other purposes, try to stick to the common format, with this step by step guide on how to write a formal or a business letter in German:

  • Start by placing your address on the top left corner of the page
  • Next, add the recipient's address, aligned on the top right corner. Remember to include their name, street, postal code, and city.
  • On the top right, write the date in long format (19. Juni 2023)
  • If you’re using reference numbers, include them below the recipient's address, on the right-hand side and feel free to put them in parentheses or square brackets
  • Add a polite salutation like “Sehr geehrter/ Sehr geehrte” if you’re addressing a stranger, followed by “Herr/Frau” and the person’s last name
  • State what you want. No matter how long German words usually are, keep your content short and to the point by avoiding unnecessary fluff
  • Sign off with a greeting like “Mit freundlichen Grüßen”, plus your name, and make sure you sign the letter by hand, even if you typed out the rest

Formatting a letter in German.

How to write the date on a letter in German

German dates are a little different from the American standard:

  • The conventional date format is DD.MM.YYYY. So, if today is June 10, 2023, you would write it as 10.06.2023
  • When writing dates within a paragraph, remember to capitalize the days of the week (Montag, Dienstag, etc.) and months (Januar, Februar, etc.)
  • Also, Germans use a dot (.) as the separator, not of a comma (,)

How to write a formal or business letter in German

Formal letters in German require a professional tone and adherence to proper etiquette. When writing a formal letter to a stranger in German, remember to:

  • Use the appropriate formal pronouns, such as "Sie" instead of "du"
  • Maintain a clear and concise structure
  • Stick to polite and respectful language, avoid slang
  • Learn about German business vocab and etiquette

Formal letter greetings

Dear (formal)Sehr geehrte/r
Dear Sir / MadamSehr geehrte Dame /sehr geehrter Herr
To whom it may concernAn alle, die es betrifft
Dear (familiar)Liebe/r
Dear teamLiebes Team
Good morningGuten Morgen
Good dayGuten Tag
Good eveningGuten Abend

How to start a formal letter in German

When it comes to crafting a formal letter, keep in mind why you’re writing the letter and what you’re hoping to get from the recipient.

Whether you’re applying for a job, writing an apology or trying to sell a product, we’ve collected just the right phrases to start your letter in German.

Learn how to write a cover letter when applying for a job in German.

Cover letters when applying for a job

I’m writing in response to your job advertisementIch schreibe Ihnen in Bezug auf Ihre Stellenausschreibung
I hereby apply for...Hiermit bewerbe ich mich um...
I have read your job advertisement with great interestMit großem Interesse habe ich Ihre Stellenanzeige gelesen
Due to my extensive experience, I am applying for...Aufgrund meiner umfangreichen Erfahrung bewerbe ich mich um
After careful research, I am applying for…Nach sorgfältiger Recherche bewerbe ich mich um…
I believe I’m just the right candidate for the role…Ich glaube, ich bin genau die richtige Kandidatin/der richtige Kandidat für die Rolle…
I’d love to join your team as a…Ich würde gerne Ihr Team als… verstärken

Letter of enquiry

I’m writing to enquire in regards to…Ich schreibe, um mich nach... zu erkundigen
I have a question about…Ich habe eine Frage zu…
I was wondering if…Ich habe mich gefragt, ob…
I’d like some information about your productsIch hätte gerne einige Informationen zu Ihren Produkten
I’m interested in…Ich habe Interesse an…
I’d be delighted to learn more about...Ich würde sehr gerne mehr über … erfahren
I’m writing to gather more information about...Ich schreibe, um mehr über … in Erfahrung zu bringen

Letter of complaint

With this letter, I would like to complain aboutMit diesem Schreiben möchte ich mich über... beschweren
I regret to inform you that I am very dissatisfied with...Es tut mir leid, Ihnen mitteilen zu müssen, dass ich mit... sehr unzufrieden bin
Unfortunately, I need to complain about the insufficient service/poor quality of...Leider muss ich mich über den mangelhaften Service/die mangelhafte Qualität von... beschweren
I am extremely disappointed with...Ich bin äußerst enttäuscht von…
I hereby express my dissatisfaction with...Hiermit möchte ich meinen Unmut über... zum Ausdruck bringen
I’m upset about...Ich bin verärgert über…
Unfortunately, ... does not meet the agreed standards.Leider entspricht... nicht den vereinbarten Standards.

Letter of apology

I’m writing to apologize for the poor service you received on your recent visit to…Ich schreibe Ihnen, um mich für den schlechten Service zu entschuldigen, den Sie bei Ihrem letzten Besuch bei...
I’m truly sorryEs tut mir ehrlich aufrichtig Leid
With great regret, I must admit that...Mit großem Bedauern muss ich zugeben, dass...
I’m aware that my actions regarding... were inappropriateEs ist mir bewusst, dass meine Handlungen bezüglich... unangebracht waren
I’m truly sorry for any inconvenience I have caused youEs tut mir aufrichtig leid, dass ich Ihnen Unannehmlichkeiten bereitet habe.
I’d like to apologize from the bottom of my heartIch möchte mich von ganzem Herzen entschuldigen
I’m begging you to forgive…Ich bitte um Verzeihung für…
It was not my intention to cause you any inconvenienceEs war nicht meine Absicht, Ihnen Unannehmlichkeiten zu bereiten
Please give me the chance to make this up to youBitte geben Sie mir die Chance, es wieder gutzumachen

For more ways to apologize in German, check out this helpful guide!

Letter of response

I’m writing in response to your enquiry on the topic of...Ich schreibe Ihnen als Antwort auf Ihre Anfrage zum Thema...
I’m writing to answer your question about…Ich schreibe Ihnen, um Ihre Frage bezüglich… zu beantworten
Thank you for your inquiry regarding...Vielen Dank für Ihre Anfrage bezüglich...
With reference to your inquiry dated [Date],Mit Bezug auf Ihre Anfrage vom [Datum],
Thank you for your interest in...Vielen Dank für Ihr Interesse an...
In response to your inquiry, I can provide you with the following information...Als Antwort auf Ihre Anfrage kann ich Ihnen folgende Informationen geben...
Thank you for your interest in...Vielen Dank für Ihr Interesse an...
We sincerely appreciate your letterWir bedanken uns herzlich für Ihr Schreiben
We’d be happy to assist youWir helfen Ihnen gerne weiter

Letter of sales / promotion

We have exciting news for you!Wir haben spannende Neuigkeiten für Sie!
We’re pleased to present our latest offers to youWir freuen uns, Ihnen unsere neuesten Angebote vorzustellen
Entdecken Sie jetzt unsere exklusiven Sonderangebote!Discover our exclusive special offers now!
Dürfen wir Ihnen unsere attraktiven Rabatte und Aktionen vorstellen?May we present our attractive discounts and promotions to you?
Be one of the first to benefit from our unbeatable offers!Gehören Sie zu den Ersten, die von unseren unschlagbaren Angeboten profitieren!
Welcome to our big sales event!Herzlich willkommen zu unserer großen Verkaufsaktion!
Take a peek at our brand-new collection!Werfen Sie einen Blick auf unsere brandneue Kollektion!

How to sign off or end a formal letter in German

Man thinking of how to sign off or end a formal letter in German.

With kind regardsMit freundlichen Grüßen
In anticipation of your prompt responseIn Erwartung Ihrer baldigen Antwort
Yours sincerelyHochachtungsvoll
Warm regardsHerzliche Grüße
With best regardsMit besten Grüßen
Kind regardsFreundliche Grüße
With friendly greetingsMit freundlichem Gruß
With friendly recommendationMit freundlicher Empfehlung
Thank you in advanceVielen Dank im Voraus

If you need more inspiration for signing off a letter or an email, head to our guide on saying goodbye in German!

Example of a formal letter in German

Sophie Schaller
An der Welle 3
60486 Frankfurt am Main

Frau Milena Eichbaum
Leiterin der Parfumabteilung
Drogeriegeschäft Kranz
Hauptstraße 5
10178 Berlin

Frankfurt am Main, den 7. Juni 2023

Betreff: Anfrage bezüglich eines bestimmten Parfums

Sehr geehrte Frau Eichbaum,

Ich hoffe, diese Zeilen erreichen Sie in bester Gesundheit und Stimmung. Vor Kurzem hatte ich das Vergnügen, Ihr Geschäft zu besuchen, wo ich in den Genuss Ihrer exzellenten Beratung in der Parfumabteilung kam.

Zu meinem Bedauern musste ich meine Suche nach dem perfekten Duft unterbrechen, da ich einen unerwarteten Anruf erhielt und das Geschäft vorzeitig verließ. Da wir während meiner Beratung mehrere Parfums ausprobiert haben, ist mir leider der Name des Parfums entfallen, das mir so gut gefiel.

Ich erinnere mich noch vage daran, dass es eine blaue Flasche hatte und herrlich nach Jasmin und Vanille duftete, mit einer weiteren Note, die mich an den Strand erinnerte. Ich wäre Ihnen sehr dankbar, wenn Sie mir helfen könnten, dieses spezielle Parfum zu identifizieren.

Ich freue mich auf Ihre Antwort und bedanke mich im Voraus für Ihre Hilfe!

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Sophie Schaller


Sophie Schaller
An der Welle 3
60486 Frankfurt am Main

Frau Milena Eichbaum
Leiterin der Parfumabteilung
Drogeriegeschäft Kranz
Hauptstraße 5
10178 Berlin

Frankfurt am Main, June 7, 2023

Subject: Inquiry regarding a specific perfume

Dear Mrs. Eichbaum,

I hope these lines reach you in the best of health and spirits. I recently had the pleasure of visiting your store, where I had the honor of receiving your excellent advice in the perfume department.

To my regret, I had to interrupt my search for the perfect fragrance as I received an unexpected phone call and left the store early. Unfortunately, since we tried several perfumes during my consultation, I forgot the name of the perfume that I liked so much.

I vaguely remember that it had a blue bottle and smelled delightfully of jasmine and vanilla, with another note that reminded me of the beach. I would be very grateful if you could help me identify this particular perfume.

I look forward to your reply and thank you in advance for your help!

With kind regards,

Sophie Schaller

How to write an informal letter in German

If you have German-speaking friends, I’m sure it would absolutely make their day if they got a handwritten letter from you!

It can be to a new acquaintance you met in transit at the Frankfurt airport or the coworker from your company’s German team that you’ve recently befriended.

Or you can go online and find a German-speaking pen pal, which is a super fun way to practice your German language skills!

Informal letters give you the liberty to write in a more personal and relaxed tone. They commonly start with a friendly greeting like "Liebe/r" (Dear) or "Hallo" (Hello) and end with casual sign-offs such as "Viele Grüße" (Many Greetings) or "Bis bald" (See you soon) - and in between you can get creative and say whatever comes to mind.

Write a postcard from Berlin to friends and family.

Informal letter greetings

When crafting an informal letter to a friend or a loved one, don’t worry about a formal greeting!

EnglishGermanRelationship context
HiHiSuitable for friends, colleagues or acquaintances
HeyHeySame as “hi” but more common in Europe
HeyNaVery casual greeting, also common in texts
DearLiebe/rA warm, affectionate greeting that can be used for friends, family members, or loved ones
DarlingLieblingThis is a term of endearment typically used for romantic partners
To my belovedAn meine Geliebte/ meine GeliebteThis very affectionately term is reserved for romantic partners
Hello my treasureHallo mein SchatzUsed between romantic partners and very close friends

How to start an informal letter in German

You’re not trying to open a new bank account or complain about a service. This is a letter to a regular person in your life, so just write the way you’d talk to them!

How are you?Wie geht’s dir?
Just reaching out to…Ich wollt mich nur mal melden, um…
What's new with you?Was gibt's Neues bei dir?
I hope you're doing wellIch hoffe, es geht dir gut
It's been a while since we last spokeEs ist schon eine Weile her, seit wir das letzte Mal gesprochen haben
How's work/school/college going?Wie läuft die Arbeit/Schule/Uni? -
I have some good newsIch habe gute Neuigkeiten
I was just thinking of you and wanted to say helloIch habe gerade an dich gedacht und wollte mal Hallo sagen

How to sign off or end an informal letter in German

Sign off your letter with one of these phrases and don’t forget your name after that!

Many greetingsViele Grüße
Kind greetingsLiebe Grüße
Warm greetingsHerzliche Grüße
I love you (for a romantic partner)Ich liebe dich
I love you (for a family member or close friend)Ich hab dich lieb
A greeting and a kissGruß und Kuss
Feel embracedFühl dich umarmt
See you soonBis bald
Take careMach’s gut
LoveIn Liebe
All the best (literally: all the lovely things)Alles Liebe

How to write an email in German

If this all sounds like a little too much work and you’re wondering how to write a German email instead, keep these things in mind:

  • Punctuality: Most Germans value punctuality, so try to respond to emails in a timely manner
  • Formality: Even in emails, it's common to use formal greetings and sign-offs if you don’t know the other person well
  • Structure: Like traditional letters, German emails also tend to follow a specific structure with a greeting, body, and conclusion
  • Politeness: Germans generally prefer directness in communication, but it's essential to stay polite. Consider using phrases like "Ich würde mich freuen, wenn..." (I would appreciate it if...) to make requests more courteous
  • Fonts: Stick to professional, easy-to-read fonts such as Arial or Times New Roman. Avoid colored fonts and excessive use of bold or italic text
  • Emojis: Generally avoid emojis in formal emails to strangers but if you do know the other person, go ahead. Using emojis in writing is like smiling while talking!

“Alles Liebe”

As you set out to write your own letters and emails in German, remember that each one of them is an opportunity to deepen connections, express your thoughts, and participate in a cultural exchange. So, grab that pen or start typing, and let your words brighten someone’s day!

P.S.: If you’re looking for more inspiring articles that all read like little love letters to the German language, find our German vocabulary blog!

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