How to Write Personal Letters in German

Briefeschreiben - Personal Letters Vocabulary and Sample

Below you will find helpful guidelines, an example, and an English-German phrasebook for writing personal letters, email, and greeting cards in German.

Personal Letter Writing
auf Deutsch

EnglishDeutsch

The Envelope • der Umschlag

Titles

Titel

Mr - Mrs/Ms - Miss
   These titles are usually not abbreviated in German. German uses Frau for both Mrs and Ms (any woman 18 or older).
Herrn - Frau - Fräulein
   Note the 'n' ending on Herrn, reflecting the understood phrase: an Herrn XYZ (to Mr. XYZ)
Address (female)Die Anschrift (weiblich)
Mrs (Ms) Maria Schmidt
Schillerstrasse 19 (19 Schiller St.)
postal code & city
  (D=Germany, A=Austria, CH=Switz.)
Frau Maria Schmidt (Fräulein if under 18)
Schillerstraße 18
D-23451 Kleindorf
Germany (if writing from outside the country)
Address (male)Die Anschrift (männlich)
Mr Karl Braun
Mozartstrasse 35 (35 Mozart St.)
postal code & city
  (A=Austria, D=Germany, CH=Switz.)
Herrn Karl Braun (Note the n!)
Mozartstraße 35
A-3451 Schöndorf
Austria (if writing from outside the country)
Note: Straße is often abbreviated Str. Other types of streets: Allee (avenue, boulevard), Gasse (lane), Weg (way, drive).
Return AddressDer Absender
Sarah Brown
253 Fall Lane
Cactus City, NV 89101
USA (if mailed from abroad)
A German return address (preceded by the abbreviation Abs.) usually goes on the back of the envelope.

On the Envelope • auf dem Umschlag

Air MailLuftpost (Germany) - Flugpost (Austria)
c/o - in care of
   "John Smith c/o the Meiers"
bei or c/o
   "John Smith bei Meier"
More often: "John Smith c/o Meier"
P.O. Box 12345Postfach 12345
Registered MailEingeschrieben
(postage) stampdie Briefmarke

Personal Letter Phrases

NOTE: These phrases are only appropriate for personal correspondence, not in formal or business situations!

EnglishDeutsch
SalutationsAnreden
Dear Maria,Liebe Maria, (female, e-ending)
Dear Hans,Lieber Hans, (male, er-ending)
Dear Maria and Hans,Liebe Maria, lieber Hans,
Dear Dad / Dear Mom,Lieber Vati, / Liebe Mutti,
Dear Friends,Liebe Freunde,
My Dearest Karl,Mein liebster Karl,
My Dearest Maria,Meine liebste Maria,
EnglishDeutsch

General Phrases

These phrases are only appropriate for personal correspondence, not in formal or business situations!

Thank you for your letterVielen Dank für deinen Brief
It was good to hear from you againIch habe mich gefreut, wieder von dir zu hören
I'm sorry that I haven't written for so longTut mir Leid, dass ich so lange nicht geschrieben habe
Please don't be mad at me for...Sei mir bitte nicht böse, dass ich...
Closing Remarks
Give my regards/love to Maria and HansGanz liebe Grüße an Maria und Hans
Tell them how much I miss themSag ihnen, wie sehr sie mir fehlen
Tell her/him how much I miss her/himSag ihr/ihm, wie sehr sie/er mir fehlt
Please write again soon!Schreib mal wieder!
Let us hear from you now and thenLasst ab und zu wieder von dir hören

Sample Personal Letters

The following sample personal letter is one in a series of examples of informal, personal correspondence (letters, email, cards) in German.

For additional information, see the numbered comments in red on the right. You'll also find an English translation of the letter below the German sample.

Personal Letter 1

Cactus City, den 25. Nov. 20021     

Liebe Maria,2
Über deinen3 letzten Brief haben wir uns sehr gefreut! Tut mir leid, dass ich schon lange nicht geantwortet habe, aber nun endlich bekommst du mal wieder ein Lebenszeichen von uns.

Wie du schon weißt, war Jim drei Wochen lang in Asien auf Geschäftsreise. Da musste ich hier zu Hause fast alles machen und kam nie dazu, dir zu schreiben. Aber mittlerweile läuft fast alles bei uns wieder "normal" and ich habe ein bisschen Zeit, um zur Feder zu greifen.

Am Mittwoch waren wir bei Barbara und Dan zum Abendessen. Sie lassen auch grüßen und hoffen dich wieder im Sommer in Berlin zu besuchen. Dan arbeitet immer noch bei...

Schöne Grüße, auch von Jim!

Deine Sarah [your signed first name]4

Annotations

1 City from which you are writing and the date; the den is optional
2 Liebe... Dear... For a male, you would write Lieber...
3 deinen your Under the new spelling rules, the familiar "you" forms are not capitalized, but many Germans still do so anyway.
4 A male would use Dein

English Translation - Personal Letter 1

Cactus City, the 25th of Nov. 2002     

Dear Maria,
We were so glad to get your last letter! I'm sorry it has taken so long for me to reply, but now once again you're finally getting some indication that we're still alive.

As you already know, Jim was traveling in Asia on business for three weeks, so I had to do almost everything here at home, and never could find the time to write you.

But in the meantime, almost everything here is running "normally" again, and I have a little time to set pen to paper.

On Wednesday we had dinner at Barbara and Dan's. They say hello and are hoping to visit you again in Berlin this summer. Dan is still working at...

Best wishes - from Jim, too!

Your Sarah

More Closing Phrases and Formulae

Alles Liebe - All my/our love, with love
Herzliche Grüße - Best wishes/Yours/Regards
Liebe Grüße und Küsse - Love and kisses
Viele liebe Grüße - Yours

At the Post Office - bei der Post

Going to the post office in Germany today is a far cry from the old days. No more special windows for each service and very limited opening hours. Today you go to the next clerk at any window for everything from banking to express mail. Some larger post offices and those at train stations are open late and on holidays!

Here is a glossary (with phrasebook) to help you at the Post.

Postal Vocabulary
Annotated English-German Phrasebook

At the Post Office • Auf der Post

EnglishDeutsch
post officedie Post / das Postamt
German Postal Bankdie Postbank
Web: Postbank (in German)
German Postal Servicedie Deutsche Post AG
Web: Deutsche Post (in German)
Web: Deutsche Post (in English)

At the Counter • Am Schalter

by air mailmit / per Luftpost
Note: The old distinction between "surface mail" and "air mail" is pretty much history. All mail between Europe and most other parts of the world goes by air. Even packages no longer go by sea.
customs form / declarationdie Zollerklärung
DHLDHL
Note: The express shipping company DHL is owned by Deutsche Post.
express maildie Eilsendung / die Expressmail
How long does it take for a package to get to... ? - Wie lange braucht ein Packet nach... ?
general deliverypostlagernde Sendungen
maildie Post
package, parceldas Paket
postage stampdie Briefmarke
I'd like five 90-cent stamps. - Ich möchte fünf Briefmarken zu 90 (neunzig) Cent.
postagedas Porto
post card(s)die Postkarte(n)
registered (mail)per Einschreiben
registered letterder Einschreibebrief
self-sticking stampsselbstklebende Marken
small package / parceldas Päkchen
special delivery letterder Eilbrief
special delivery maildie Eilsendung
stamp(s)die Briefmarke(n)
to stamp, put on a stampfrankieren

Mail • Die Post

mailboxder Briefkasten
mail carrierder Postbote / die Postbotin
mailman, postmander Postbote

On the Envelope • Auf dem Umschlag

EnglishDeutsch
Address unknownunbekannt verzogen
Deceasedverstorben
Forwardnachsenden
From / SenderAbsender (der)
Moved (to)verzogen (nach)
Moved out of the country / abroadins Ausland Verzogen
P.O. Box 21233Postfach 21233
postal code - ZIP codePLZ = Postleitzahl (die)
Postage paid (w/ digital code)DV bezahlt
Postage paid (Port payé)Freimachung (DV)
Printed matterDrucksache (die)
Refusedverweigert
Undeliverableunzustellbar
Unknown - No such personunbekannt

Remarks Printed or Written on Envelope / Package

DeutschEnglish
Bei Umzug Anschriftenbenachrichtigungskarte!New address requested! ("If recipient has moved, send a change-of-address card!")
Bei Umzug mit neuer Anschrift zurück!If recipent has moved, return to sender with new address!
Bitte an Absender zurück!Please return to sender!
Bitte Freimachen!Please use postage stamp! (pay postage)
Entgelt bezahltPostage paid
MaschinenfähigMachine readable
Nicht nachsenden!Do not forward!
Wenn unzustellbar, zurück!If undeliverable, return to sender!
Format
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Your Citation
Flippo, Hyde. "How to Write Personal Letters in German." ThoughtCo, Aug. 8, 2016, thoughtco.com/how-to-write-personal-letters-in-german-4071339. Flippo, Hyde. (2016, August 8). How to Write Personal Letters in German. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-write-personal-letters-in-german-4071339 Flippo, Hyde. "How to Write Personal Letters in German." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-write-personal-letters-in-german-4071339 (accessed October 21, 2017).