English Email advice for French people

So you know they’re out there, those “faux amis”…. those expressions that don’t quite translate.  But you should be careful when you write your emails, because there are A LOT of little mistakes to watch out for.

Here is an example of an email with some MISTAKES. Can you spot the problems in this email and try to correct them?

“Hello John,

I write you because I have a problem for our meeting tomorrow.  I have to meet with a supplier in the morning, and I don’t think I will finish on time.  Can we report our meeting to another time?  I propose you the afternoon instead, or in the morning on Thursday or Friday.  Thank you to tell me what time is best for you.”

So did you see anything strange??

What about “I write you.”  What is the problem here?  Well because it’s an action you’re doing AT THE MOMENT, you must use the present continuous (-ing).  The present simple is used for habits, every day actions.  (ex. I write emails EVERY DAY).  So it should be “I’m writing.”

Do you see any other mistakes??

How about “Can we report our meeting.”  Be careful, “report” does not mean the same thing in English as in French.  Instead you can say “push back,”  “move,”  “change,” or “postpone” a meeting.

The next problem is the word “propose.”  You use this word in French, but in English it’s a little strange.  It would be better to say “suggest.”  You can suggest a time for a meeting.

The last mistake is “thank you to tell me…”  In French you can say “merci de me dire…”  “merci de m’envoyer..” etc.  In English we don’t use this same expression.  When you are asking a favor or a request you should say “Please tell me” or “could you tell me”  or to be very polite, “could you please tell me…”  but NOT “thank you to tell me.”

So here is what the CORRECT email should look like (with a few changes to make it more ENGLISH and less FRANGLISH):

“Hello John,

I’m afraid I have a problem for our meeting tomorrow.  I have to meet with a supplier in the morning, and I don’t think I will finish on time.  Can we move our meeting to another time?  How about in the afternoon instead, or in the morning on Thursday or Friday.  Let me know what time is best for you.”



International Etiquette for Businesspeople


In your company, you probably know almost everyone.  You know the the rules, you know what to say and when, you know how to greet people, you walk, talk and work without having to consciously think about whether you’re doing it the right way.

When you travel to another country for business, never assume that it will be the same as your country.

You should at least spend a little time reading about business etiquette in the country of your destination to avoid making a bad first impression, or even truly insulting someone!


In France you shake hands (one time up and down) when you are meeting someone in a business setting.  In many countries the handshake is the most acceptable form of greeting, but in some Asian countries you should be prepared to bow.  And in the U.S. we usually shake hands to say “hello,” but don’t be offended if we don’t shake your hand again to say “goodbye.”  It’s not a common practice…  And be careful!  In some countries, the handshake is only between men.

Exchanging Business Cards (carte de visite)

In most western countries, business cards serve only and informational purpose.  No one will be shocked if you jot down some notes, if you fold it, or put it in your pocket.  However, exchanging business cards is not as easy as you think.  In Arab countries it is important to never use your left hand to give someone your business card!  In many Asian countries it is customary to give your business card with both hands (with the print facing out so your contact can read it).  And you might even have to bow!

Follow the Others

If all else fails, just keep an close eye on everyone and everything happening around you.  Try to follow their example and do what they do.

But our best advice is to read about the country you will visit in advance to prepare yourself for these social differences, because one wrong move can land you in an awkward situation, or could even make you lose a potential client.