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Here is a simple question from a person with a limited knowledge in German.

Currently I'm writing a letter to a person who has a title of "Graf zu" someplace. Now how would you properly address him? Dear Sir or Dear Graf zu ...?

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There is no such title in Germany, any more. It can only be a name. – user unknown Jul 11 '11 at 1:35
up vote 4 down vote accepted

In German you traditionally wrote "Sehr geehrter Herr Graf zu XXX,...".

Nowadays you can simply write "Sehr geehrter Graf zu XXX,...". And only a chauffeur or butler are supposed to use "Herr Graf" without the name. Nobility was abolished by the Weimar Republic in 1919. No new titles were to be awarded and existing titles were to be considered as part of the name.

Some links are here, here and here .(I added the first link because it contains the real thing: an answer to your question written by an actual Graf von Walderdorff !)

PS: Actually your question is about English and might be asked on English Language and Usage ( You might start your letter according to the German rules above as a sign of respect and continue in English...

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Since the nobility was abolished, as you say, there is no such thing as an actual Graf. – user unknown Jul 11 '11 at 1:34
Great, thanks for proper explanation. – Tigran Khanzadyan Jul 11 '11 at 8:34
@user unknown: But there is an actual Graf von Walderdorff, i.e. a person with that name. Goerges Elencwajg did not claim that he is an actual Graf. +1 for the answer by the way. – OregonGhost Jul 11 '11 at 8:52
@OregonGhost: read it again. What else shall 'an actual Graf von Walderdorff!' mean? Or is Berti-Vogts-Deutsch meanwhile an official language doctrine? "Von einem Lothar Matthaeus muss hier mehr kommen!"? The name, as an unique identifier in the context, would be used "written by Hein Graf von Walderdorff" or "by the author Detlef Graf von W.". If he is well known "by Graf von W." would be sufficient. – user unknown Jul 11 '11 at 11:59
@user unknown: If you really want to go the nitpicking route, it's not Berti-Vogts-Deutsch, of course, since the sentence is in English :P Just kidding. I get your point, but this is not a formal text. Just read the sentence as "someone who actually has Graf in his name because one of his ancestors was actually a Graf". Your (formally better) suggestions, on the other hand, wouldn't get the point across Georges Elencwajg was trying to make, namely to emphasize that someone whose family lost the title and has it now just in the name says how it should be written correctly. – OregonGhost Jul 11 '11 at 13:40

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