Monday, 13 April 2009

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren

How do you write a letter in German? Generally we write our name and address first and if it is formal we put the name and address of the recipient underneath. There is so much variation in English that it is hard to be specific but in German the tendency is to write both names and addresses on the left, and then the place where you are writing the letter and the date on the right. You don’t need to know any numbers for this because it would look like Morecambe, den 12.4.2009

You start the letter Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren which is the equivalent of 'Dear sir or madam'. If you know that you are writing to a man it is Sehr geehrte and to a woman it is Sehr geehrter. The more you learn, the easier the adjectival agreement. When I was at school in the 70s we had to learn adjectival agreements and vocabulary came second. However when you learn a native language you learn vocabulary first.

There is a convention in English that says you write 'Yours sincerely' if you have started your letter dear and the person’s name. If you start with 'Dear Sir' the convention is to write 'Yours faithfully'. At least you don’t have to be concerned with this in German. You can just write Mit freundlichen Grüßen or you can also say Hochachtungsvoll.

Bis bald

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