and zero articles
At or in school
Beginning and ending letters
Berger from the Czech Republic asks about using the
indefinite article and the appropriate way to word a letter:
you must ask to get a permission'. Though it is uncountable, I would
like to give here an indefinite article, so which version is correct?
Furthermore, I'm not sure whether I should use at or in High School, and finally I would like to ask you about the first line I have written in this letter. Which one is the most appropriate when I do not know whether I'm writing to a man or to a woman? 'Dear Sirs' or 'Dear Sir or Madam': which one would you recommend?
article plus uncountable noun, Zdenek, is normally used for abstract
qualities such as permission, honesty, greed, morality, philosophy:
brings me on to your next question, whether to use at or in
with school. They appear to me to be interchangeable in
most of the examples that I can think of:
(Note the use of zero article with abstract nouns!)
Your question about how to begin and end letters is an important one. In a formal letter, beginning with Dear Sir(s) or Dear Sir or Madam are equally acceptable, but make sure you match these with Yours faithfully at the end.
Yours sincerely is used in less formal letters when the name of your correspondent is known, thus: Dear Zdenek or Dear Mr Berger would end with Yours sincerely. If you know your correspondent very well, you might begin with Dear Zdenek and end with either Yours or Best wishes.