Do Germans write letters in the 21st century? What types of personal letters are there? What are the rules for writing a letter in German? Today we will learn how to write a personal letter in German for different situations in life.

For birthdays, weddings or Christmas – Germans still love to write personal letters, despite the fact that email and messengers have long taken over their lives, as have people around the world. According to a survey conducted on World Letter Writing Day – September 1 – 60% of Germans surveyed at least occasionally write letters. Nearly one in ten even receives a personally written letter each month. The most popular reasons for personal letters are birthdays, declarations of love and letters of condolence.

Personal letter

I’m sure you’ve received a personal letter at least once before. What makes it so special? What is important when you write it yourself? Personal letters are intended primarily for the recipient only and can contain very personal emotional messages.

Structure of the letter

The following are important in a personal letter:

  • The letter header – the place, the date is written in the upper right corner and separated by a comma: Moskau, den 9. April
  • The address – Liebe/r …, Hallo…
  • Main part – contents of the letter
  • Conclusion – farewell: Liebe Grüße/ Bis bald, signed: Dein/e…

What to write about

  • Address the recipient of the letter personally: vielen Dank für deinen Brief. Ich freue mich, von dir zu hören. Wie läuft es so bei dir?
  • Write about new events in your life: Gestern war ich…, Morgen habe ich…
  • Ask your conversation partner to answer: Wie war dein Urlaub, Was gibt es Neues, Hast du deine Prüfung geschafft
  • Leave a good wish: Mach’s gut, Wünsche dir einen schönen Urlaub, Hab Spaß
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Where to begin

If you’re just getting started in the art of letter-writing, we recommend you start by mapping out a plan. And then, as the Germans say, “Wird es in Fleisch und Blut übergehen”, which means “from now on you will write letters on automatic”.

  1. Write the key words (what you want to write about, what really matters to you).
  2. Pay attention to the formalities. What kind of address to use? Personal pronouns to address du and ihr as well as possessive pronouns are always written with a capital letter. Exception: Sie and Ihr are written in polite form.
  3. Do not forget the comma between the place and the date. Leave a space after the address and before the goodbye.
  4. Attach photos or pictures to the letter to make it more descriptive.
  5. Think of an envelope with your address (sender – top left) and the recipient’s address (middle right under the stamp). What do you need to do to make the envelope arrive? (At the very least, take it to the post office 😉

Greeting phrases for official letters:

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, Sehr geehrte Frau … (Nachname)
Sehr geehrter Herr … (Nachname), Sehr geehrter Herr Dr. … (Nachname)

And you can find a sample business letter in German here.

The greeting phrases for unofficial letters:

Lieber Herr… (Nachname)/ Liebe Frau … (Nachname)
Lieber … (Vorname)/ Liebe … (Vorname)
Mein lieber … (Vorname)/ Meine liebe … (Vorname)
Hallo mein lieber Freund / Hallo meine liebe Freundin

Farewell phrases for official letters:

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Farewell phrases for unofficial letters:

Mit herzlichen Grüßen
Liebe Grüße (= LG)
Dein / Deine … (Vorname)
Ganz liebe Grüße (= GLG)
Liebe Grüße aus Berlin / Dresden / Köln
Ich umarme dich
Bis bald
Alles Liebe
Alles Gute

Example of a letter

Köln, den 24. April

Liebe Liliam

vielen Dank für deinen Brief. Ich freue mich, von dir zu hören. Ich bitte um Entschuldigung, dass ich so lange nicht geantwortet habe. Ich habe auf der Arbeit viel zu tun. Gestern hatte ich ein Bewerbungsgespräch. Ich hoffe, ich habe es geschafft. Ach, noch was. Seit 2 Wochen besuche ich einen Deutschkurs. Ein Junge in meinem Kurs ist sehr nett. Morgen gehen wir zusammen ins Theater. Ich freue mich sehr auf den Abend.

Aus deinem Brief habe ich erfahren, dass du ab Montag einen Urlaub hast. Es ist einfach super. Ich bin sogar etwas neidisch. Weißt du schon, wohin du fahren möchtest? Wie lange dauert dein Urlaub? Mit wem fährst du? Halt mich auf dem Laufenden.

Viele Grüße


Cologne, 24. April

Dear Paula

Thank you very much for your letter. I am glad to hear from you. I apologise for not replying for so long. I have been very busy at work. Yesterday I had a job interview. I hope I made it. Oh, one more thing. I’ve been attending a German course for two weeks. A boy in my class is very nice. Tomorrow we’re going to the theatre together. I’m really looking forward to the evening.

I found out from your letter that you have a holiday starting Monday. It’s just great. I’m even a little envious. Do you already know where you want to go? How long will your holiday last? Who are you going with? Keep me informed.

Best regards

A letter of congratulations

Small gifts are said to strengthen friendships. The same applies to personal words of congratulations at different occasions, such as birthdays, weddings, the birth of a child or other celebrations.

Congratulations bring pleasure to the recipient and strengthen the relationship and partnership with each other. Nowadays, we rarely send paper letters, much more often it’s either a social media message or an e-mail. But e-mails look arbitrary and impersonal, can even end up in the spam folder, and are rarely read.

Of course, the person you want to congratulate will also be pleased if you call him or her. But you should only do so if they are close friends or work colleagues with whom you communicate regularly.

A letter is more unobtrusive. It sends a heartfelt greeting, but it still creates distance and is often more appropriate. Many people enjoy greeting letters so much that they keep them for years. They take particularly beautiful greetings home, hang them on the fridge and display them proudly to friends and relatives.

If you have learned how to write a personal letter then it is easy to write a greeting letter. The structure of this type of letter is not much different from a normal letter.


4 Tips for Writing a Greeting Letter

  1. A greeting letter is always something personal that goes beyond the purely business level. You should express this through the form of a greeting. “Liebe Frau Schmidt” sounds more appropriate than “Sehr geehrte Frau Schmidt“.
  2. Be sure to include your name at the end. If you know the person well and have a friendly relationship with him or her, sign “Dein” or “Deine“.
  3. Leave the usual additions to your business correspondence. Remember that you are congratulating the person in person first and foremost.
  4. If you formulate texts, they shouldn’t be too short. It is usually difficult to find the right words for the introduction. You can make it a lot easier by referring to poems, sayings or quotations.

Sample birthday letter

Liebe Liliam,

es gibt nichts Schöneres als deinen Geburtstag. Ich bin stolz darauf, dass ich so einen schönen Menschen wie dich kenne. Ich wünsche dir viel Glück und natürlich Gesundheit. Ich freue mich schon sehr darauf, dich zu sehen, wenn wir uns am Samstag treffen. Ich warte mit Ungeduld. Herzliche Glückwünsche, Liliam! Pass gut auf dich auf! or Lass dich verwöhnen und genieße deinen Tag.

Bis Samstag,


Dear Liliam,

there is nothing more beautiful than your birthday. I am proud to know such a beautiful person like you. I wish you much happiness and of course good health. I am very much looking forward to seeing you when we meet on Saturday. I am waiting with impatience. Congratulations, Margo! Take good care of yourself! or Be pampered and enjoy your day.

See you on Saturday,

Wishes in German

We have collected a few wishes for different holidays that you can use in your letters.

For your birthday:

Alles Liebe und Gute zum Geburtstag! – All the best for your birthday!
Zu deinem Geburtstag wünsche ich dir… (Glück, viel Geld, Gesundheit, viel Erfolg) – For your birthday I wish you (happiness, lots of money, health, success)
Dass dir alle Türen offen stehen – That all doors are open to you.
Alle deine Probleme im Winde verwehen – That your problems disperse in the wind
Glück und Erfolg dich stets begleiten – Happiness and success always accompany you.
Und dir ein wundervolles Lebensjahr bereiten – And make the new year of your life beautiful.
Das Leben soll es immer gut mit Dir meinen – You should always be guided through life

You can find more German-language birthday wishes in our separate article on the subject.

Happy New Year and Merry Christmas

frohe Weihnachten – Merry Christmas
frohes neues Jahr – happy New Year
ein gutes neues Jahr – happy New Year
Ich hoffe, es wird ein gutes Jahr für dich – I hope it’ll be a good year for you.

More German New Year wishes in our earlier article.

To the wedding

Herzlichen Glückwunsch zur Hochzeit – Congratulations on your wedding!
Für euren gemeinsamen Lebensweg wünschen wir euch alles Gute, Glück und ewige Liebe! – We wish you all the best, happiness and eternal love for your life together!
Zu eurem großen Tag wünschen wir euch, dass eure Liebe immer stärker wird und ihr euch immer gerne an eure Hochzeit zurückerinnert – For your big day, we wish you that your love will always grow stronger and that you will always remember your wedding fondly.

For the christening and birth of a child

Glück und Segen für den Lebensweg – Happiness and blessings for life’s journey
Alle guten Wünsche zur Taufe: Möge Dein Leben voller Licht und Freude sein – All good wishes for your baptism: May your life be full of light and joy
Zu deiner Taufe wünschen wir Dir und Deinen Eltern alles Gute – We wish you and your parents all the best for your baptism.

For your exams

Du hast alle Prüfungen bestanden? Super! Gut gemacht! – Have you passed all your exams? Super! Well done!
Ich gratuliere dir zu einer 5 – Congratulations on your 5!
Dein Erfolg macht uns stolz – Your success makes us proud.
Herzlichen Glückwunsch zur bestandenen Prüfung! – Congratulations on passing the exam!

A letter of condolence

With a personal letter of condolence you can express your sympathy. It is comforting for those who have lost a loved one to know that they are not alone in their grief.

What is a condolence letter?

A condolence letter, also called a Kondolenzbrief or Beileidsschreiben, is a letter to someone who has lost a loved one. In a condolence letter, you express your sympathy, show your appreciation for the deceased and try to comfort the grieving person.

Tips for writing a condolence letter

  1. A condolence letter should preferably be handwritten. This makes the letter more personal than a typed condolence letter. Your handwriting is not important. Rather, what matters is that you make an effort to express condolences in your own words.
  2. If you do want to write a condolence letter on a PC, you should add an address, a greeting formula and your signature in ink. This gives the letter a personal touch.
  3. Stationery and envelopes with black borders are not used for condolence letters. They are only used by the grieving family to announce the death and/or invite them to the funeral.

Structure of the letter

Condolence letters do not have specific requirements for their content and structure. However, the following points may provide you with guidance on how to compose a condolence letter.

  1. Address

The address in a condolence letter is no different from that in other letters. Depending on your relationship to the receiver, you may choose from the familiar or formal form of address: Liebe/Lieber …, Liebe Frau/Lieber Herr…, Sehr geehrte Frau/Sehr geehrter Herr…, Liebe Familie…, Sehr geehrte Familie… “Liebe/Sehr geehrte Trauerfamilie” is no longer used today.

  1. Introduction

To start a condolence letter, you refer to the case of your letter and express your concern. If you find it difficult to find the right words, you can resort to tried-and-true wording:

der unerwartete Tod Deines/Deiner … hat mich tief erschüttert – the unexpected death of your … shook me deeply
die Nachricht vom Tod Deiner/Deines … hat mich fassungslos gemacht – the news of your … death stunned me
die Nachricht vom Tod Ihrer/Ihres … hat uns schwer getroffen – the news of your … death … has struck us
es ist schwer, einen Menschen zu verlieren, der der Mittelpunkt des eigenen Lebens war. – it is hard to lose the person who has been everything in your life.

  1. Condolences

Condolences to friends and close relatives:

Du bist in dieser schweren Zeit nicht alleine. – You are not alone in this difficult time.
Ich möchte Dir / Euch hiermit mein aufrichtig empfundenes Beileid aussprechen. – I hereby wish to express my sincere condolences to you.
Ich teile deine / eure Trauer. – I share your grief.
In diesen schmerzvollen Stunden sind wir in Gedanken bei dir/euch. – In these painful hours we are in thought with you.
Mein allerherzlichstes Beileid und mein tiefstes Mitgefühl gelten dir und deiner Familie. – My sincerest condolences and my deepest sympathy go to you and your family.

More formal condolences:

Dafür möchte ich Ihnen mein tiefempfundenes Beileid aussprechen. – On this occasion, I would like to express my deepest condolences to you.
Ich möchte Ihnen hiermit mein aufrichtiges Mitgefühl und tiefe Anteilnahme übermitteln. – I hereby wish to convey to you my sincere sympathy and deep empathy.
Ich spreche Ihnen meine herzliche Anteilnahme aus. – I express to you my heartfelt sympathy.
In Trauer fühlen wir uns mit Ihnen verbunden. – In sorrow we feel united with you.

  1. A few words about the deceased.

After the condolence, write some respectful words about the deceased. What positive qualities do you remember about him?

Mit… haben wir einen verlässlichen Geschäftspartner und geschätzten Kollegen verloren. – With… we have lost a reliable business partner and a respected colleague.
Ihre herzliche und liebevolle Art wird uns allen fehlen. – Her heartfelt and loving image will be missed by us all.
Seine Ehrlichkeit und Zuverlässigkeit werden uns in guter Erinnerung bleiben. – His honesty and reliability will remain in our good memory.
Ich habe sein ansteckendes Lachen sehr gemocht. – I loved his infectious laughter.
Ich hatte sie/ihn sehr lieb. – I liked him/her very much.

  1. Personal address (optional)

The recollection of shared experiences gives the condolence text a particularly personal touch.

Sie war meine erste Freundin in der Stadt, und dafür werde ich ihr immer dankbar sein. – She was my first friend in the city, and for that I will always be grateful to her.
Ich werde nie vergessen, wie wir zusammen… – I will never forget how we were together.
Unsere gemeinsame Zeit in… habe ich sehr genossen. – Our time together in … was great.
Ich weiß noch genau, wie wir uns beim… kennengelernt haben. – I remember exactly how we met during …..

  1. Offer of support

Grieving people need comfort and support. Sometimes they also feel overwhelmed by the tasks of everyday life, so offer them your help.

Lass mich wissen, wenn ich etwas für Dich tun kann. – Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.
Ich bin immer für Dich da, wenn Du jemanden zum Reden brauchst. – I am always there for you if you need someone to talk to.
Melde Dich bitte, wenn ich Dir helfen kann. – Let me know if you need help.
Ich stehe Dir in dieser schweren Zeit gerne bei und unterstütze Dich bei allem, was zu tun ist. – I will gladly help you in this difficult time and support you in whatever you need to do.

  1. Farewell

Complete your letter of condolence with a suitable farewell formula.

Du trauerst nicht allein. – You are not grieving alone/alone.
In freundschaftschaftlicher Verbundenheit, … – With friendly affection, …
In Gedanken bin ich bei dir. – In thought I am with you.
In herzlicher Anteilnahme, … – In heartfelt sympathy, …

Example of a condolence letter

Sehr geehrte Frau Müller,

die Nachricht vom Tod Ihrer Mutter hat mich fassungslos gemacht. Ihre herzliche und liebevolle Art wird uns allen fehlen. Sie sind in dieser schweren Zeit nicht alleine. Ich fühle mich Ihnen und Ihrer Familie in dieser schweren Zeit verbunden. Lassen Sie mich wissen, wenn ich etwas für Sie tun kann.

Mit tiefem Mitgefühl,


Dear Mrs. Müller,

the news of your mother’s death stunned me. Her heartfelt and loving image will be missed by all of us. You are not alone in this difficult time. I feel united with you and your family during this difficult time. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

With deepest sympathy,

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