Le courrier électronique / L'e-mail / Le courriel

Typical Messages
(Here's my homework ; I'll miss class; I've a question; etc.)

Since e-mail is one of the more common forms of communication between people in a variety of contexts, it is important to point out a few stylistic considerations. As you would expect, the way two friends write each other is not the same as messages between, for example, a child and a parent, a student and a professor, or a job applicant and an employer. Add the differences between English and French and an incorrect expression could lead to serious misunderstandings.

Below are some suggestions for student-professor e-mails.
NOTE: This is for e-mail only. Formal written letters for job applications, requests for information etc, would generally be different. For details, feel free to ask your professor.

A simple formal way to begin and end an email to a professor:
(Note that a blank email can be interpreted as insulting or as spam!)

Chère Madame, (or - Cher Monsieur)
your name (always remember to sign your messages and to include your section!)

Two somewhat informal but appropriate ways of writing a professor (especially a few weeks after the semester has begun and you have gotten to know the person):

(if before 5pm)
Bonne journée,
your name & section
(if after 5pm)
Bonne soirée,
your name & section

Details: (for Professor Chris Dupont)


What NOT to write
(could be impolite or insulting)

What is appropriate
(unless your professor has suggested otherwise)

[blank - no greeting
and/or no message
Hey professor!
Bonjour Prof,
Salut! [Hi!]
Cher Chris [Dear Chris]

Most formal: Madame, / Monsieur,
Formal: Chère Madame, / Cher Monsieur,
[NOTE: This would be similar to “Dear Professor Dupont” in English.]
Less formal: Bonjour, (ou Bonsoir,)


What NOT to write
(could be impolite or insulting)

What is appropriate
(unless your professor has suggested otherwise)

[blank - no ending]
Salut ! [Bye !]
Ciao !
A bientôt [See you soon ! - too general]
Sincèrement [Not used in French - see “What is appropriate”]

Cordialement [Sincerely,]
Avec mes salutations [Sincerely, slightly more formal]
[For  more formal polite forms ask your professor]
Bonne journée, (ou Bonne soirée,)
[Have a nice day / Have a nice evening]
A demain, [See you tomorrow]
A lundi, [See you Monday]

ET N’OUBLIEZ PAS VOTRE NOM (et votre section si nécessaire)!
[and do not forget your name (and your section if necessary)!]

Some typical emails from a student to a professor might be:

Chère Madame,

Voici ci-joint le devoir pour aujourd’hui.
(Here attached is today’s homework.)

Bonne journée,
Sam (9h35)

Cher Monsieur,

Je ne peux pas venir en cours aujourd’hui. Je vous demande de bien vouloir excuser mon absence.
(I cannot come to class today. Please excuse my absence.)

Merci et à lundi,
Sam (9h35)


Merci pour votre message. Oui, je peux venir vous voir à 10h.
(Thank you for your message. Yes, I can come see you at 10 a.m.)

A demain,
Sam (9h35)


J’ai une question. Pourquoi est-ce qu’on dit « j’ai des livres » mais « je n’ai pas de livres » ? Je ne comprends pas « pas de »**.
(I have a question. Why does one say « j’ai des livres” but “je n’ai pas de livres » ? I don’t understand « pas de».)

Merci !
Bonne soirée,
Sam (9h35)

**If necessary, you may ask your questions in English, but be sure the greeting and ending are in French!

Et bien sûr, si un professeur prend le temps de répondre à un e-mail que vous lui avez envoyé ou à une question que vous lui avez posée, vous devriez le remercier :
(And of course, if a professor takes the time to answer an e-mail you have sent or a question you have asked, you should thank him or her:)


Merci beaucoup pour votre réponse.
Bon week-end,