Letter closings: German vs English

As a follow-up to my previous post on subtle but important differences in writing letters in German and English, see here, I would like to discuss letter closings. Most of you are familiar with phrases such as

Best regards, Sincerely yours, Yours faithfully.

In German, some common letter closings are

Hochachtungsvoll, Mit freundlichen Grüßen, Liebe Grüße.

There are two aspects I want to mention.

First, some German native speakers (and very likely people with other language backgrounds as well) use false friends as letter closings. A good example is the phrase “Best greetings“, which is a translation of the German phrase “Beste Grüße” but is not typically used by native speakers. A related example is “Greetings“, which is the literal translation of the short form “Grüße” (or singular “Gruß“) which is quite common in Germany. However, the correct English translation of Grüße is regards. In fact, the words greet and greeting cause quite some confusion among German native speakers, see also here. The key point is that the meaning of the English word greeting restricts its use to the beginning of a letter or a conversation (for the German speaking readers: to greet means begrüßen, but not grüßen).

Second, in German, informal letters, emails and text messages often make use of abbreviations such as

MFG (Mit freundlichen Grüßen)

or

LG (Liebe Grüße).

Interestingly, these abbreviations seem to have no common English equivalent: I have never seen a native speaker abbreviate “Best regards” as BR at the end of an email. However, abbreviations of this kind seem to be in use in the military, see this discussion.

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4 thoughts on “Letter closings: German vs English

  1. As a native speaker, I usually use “Kind Regards”. I’ve gotten used to “Best Regards”, but it doesn’t feel natural. Kind of like “Best Greetings” – a little direct translation abomination.

    Ah, and I’ve encountered BR, commonly found in people overconfident in their (lacking) English…

  2. Thanks for your comment. To my knowledge, “Best regards” is correct English, but I agree that it sounds very formal. The short form “Best” is maybe even worse.

    Not sure if I should be glad to hear that somebody else has encountered “BR”, but I’m certainly intrigued ;-).

  3. My boss, who is a native-born Brit always closes emails with “Kr”. At first this confused me but I’ve got used to it after a couple of years.

    Only two days ago I received an email which closed with “Br”. As it came from the UK arm of a German company I can only guess at the nationality of the writer but if it’s any help the surname is GOODIN.

  4. The name Goodin does not sound particularly German, but I have seen other occasions where native English speakers started to pick up German habits after spending enough time abroad. The most remarkable example was an American who said beamer instead of projector, see http://bit.ly/1faF6Zp .

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