Here's How You Close a French Business Letter Correctly

In French commercial correspondence, the more polite you are, the better

Hand writing a letter on a wooden table.
The sign off in a French business letter is extremely important. Sasha Bell/Getty Images

In French business letters, called correspondance commerciale, it's best to be as polite and formal as possible. This means you will choose a complimentary close that sounds professional, that is polite and formal, and one that suits the subject at hand — whether, for instance, it's a business transaction or a job-related letter. These qualities should hold true for the entire letter, from top to bottom.

French Business Letter Format

  • The date of writing
  • The address of the recipient
  • The salutation, or greeting
  • The body of the letter, always written in the more formal plural you (vous)
  • A polite pre-close (optional)
  • The close and the signature

If the writer is writing on his or her own behalf, then the letter can be written in the first person singular (je). If the writer is composing the letter on behalf of a company, everything should be expressed in the first person plural (nous). Of course, verb conjugations should match the pronoun that's used. Whether a woman or man is writing, the adjectives should agree in gender and number. 

The Pre-Close

After the body of the letter, you can insert a pre-close phrase, which adds a further note of formality to the close. A pre-close would launch your closing sentence with a dependent clause something like this: "En vous remerciant de la confiance que vous me témoignez, je..." What follows is the correct close for your circumstances from the list below.

The Close

The French close a business letter with a full sentence that ends in a period. There is no precise equivalent in English-language business letters, which would typically end with "Sincerely" or some variation, such as "Respectfully yours" (very formal), "Yours (very) truly" (formal), to "Cordially" or "With Warm Regards" (almost casual). In the UK, the formal option might be "Yours faithfully."

The French close can sound a little grandiose to English speakers. But avoid this French formula and you risk offending your French recipient. So take care to learn the formula. Look at the Close Options in the table below the salutations. After the verb or verb phrase, there is room for an expression between two commas. This should include the same words you used in the salutation.

Typical French Salutations

Monsieur, Madame To whom it may concern
Messieurs Dear Sirs
Monsieur Dear Sir
Madame Dear Madam
Mademoiselle Dear Miss
Monsieur le Directeur Dear Director
Monsieur le Ministre Dear Minister
Monsieur/Madame le* Professeur Dear Professor
Cher/Chère + salutation Used only if you know the person that you are writing to

French Close Options

These comprise the closing formula. Choose from the options, which are listed from most formal to least formal. You must choose an option from Columns A and C. Column B is optional. Leaving it out will make the formula less formal. If you leave it out, you must drop the à at the end of some Column A phrases. 

Column A Column B Column C
Je vous prie d'agréer, ...,

Je vous prie d'accepter, ...,

Je vous prie de croire, ..., à

Veuillez agréer, ...,

Veuillez croire, ..., à

Agréez, ....,

Croyez, ..., à
l'assurance de

l'expression de

ma considération distinguée.
mes salutations distinguées.
mes sentiments distingués.
mes sentiments respectueux.
mes sentiments dévoués.
mes sincères salutations.
mes respectueux hommages.
mes cordiales salutations.
mes sentiments les meilleurs.
mon meilleur souvenir.
Je vous adresse, ..., (skip) mon bon souvenir.
Recevez, ..., (skip) mon fidèle souvenir.

Column C Notes

  1. A man should never use "sentiments" when writing to a woman.
  2. "mes respectueux hommages" should only be used by a man writing to a woman.
  3. The uses of "souvenir" are quite informal. Use them carefully. Compare these to what you would use in personal correspondence.

Sample Pre-Close and Close

"En vous remerciant de la confiance que vous me témoignez (pre-close), je vous prie d'agréer, Monsieur Untel, l'assurance de ma considération distinguée (close)."

Note that "Monsieur Untel" is exactly the same as the salutation (greeting) at the top of the sample French business letter.

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Lawless, Laura K. "Here's How You Close a French Business Letter Correctly." ThoughtCo, May. 12, 2021, Lawless, Laura K. (2021, May 12). Here's How You Close a French Business Letter Correctly. Retrieved from Lawless, Laura K. "Here's How You Close a French Business Letter Correctly." ThoughtCo. (accessed July 27, 2021).