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I need to find a way to formally address a person in an e-mail when I do not know if they are a woman or a man. I am thinking of a situation where I know the name of the person but unfortunately there is no way for me to discover if they are female or male. There are several names like this, for example, Alin, Andrea, Simone.

Let's assume someone is called Andrea Behnken. In Italy, it would most probably be a man and in Austria/Germany a woman. How could I address them in an e-mail? I read online that I could write "Guten Tag, Andrea Behnken", "Guten Morgen, Andrea Behnken" or "Guten Abend, Andrea Behnken".

Does that sound correct to you?

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    For better or worse, any male named Andrea in Germany will be very used to getting addressed with the wrong gender. The fact that Andrea is indeed not only a German female name, but also an Italian male name, may be somewhat known in parts of the population, but even those will probably assume a female by default as it is by far more common. (Having an obviously Italian surname might help, though.) As for Simone, I'm pretty sure they almost never get addressed as "Herr", it's simply too uncommon and thus hardly known. Jasmin is another such example. Commented May 27, 2020 at 20:14
  • @DavidVogt only now I see this duplicate question.
    – Wolf
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 20:17
  • @O.R.Mapper just an idea in addition: a look at the top level domain of the e-mail address may give a hint whether Andrea is a woman .de or a man .it
    – Wolf
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 21:17

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I'd say that

Sehr geehrte(r) Vorname Name

would be a good choice.

This may sound a bit under-cooled or stiff, but if I don't know someone at all (and that I don't know whether woman or man is a pretty sure sign), I'd rather sound a bit too formal than too casual.

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  • One possible drawback with this solution is that this gives away that you do not know the addressee's gender, whereas solutions like "Guten Tag" do not allow a definitive statement about that. May or may not be important depending on the use case. Commented May 27, 2020 at 20:18
  • @O.R.Mapper I think it is not possible in German to use a form of address with which one can credibly give the impression of knowing someone without actually knowing him/her. And maybe this is not such a bad thing ;-)
    – Wolf
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 21:14
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    I thought "Guten Tag" does fulfil that requirement. Though I wasn't thinking of "knowing someone", just indicating you are somehow aware of their gender. Commented May 27, 2020 at 21:23

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