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"To Whom It May Concern" - What does it mean, when is it used?

What is the purpose of this phrase, or should I use "Dear Sir/Madam"?

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Comments  (Page 2) 
HonieI would like to know, we can use this phrase or not "to whom this may concern" instead of "to whom it may concern" if using it, that wrong or not?
I have never seen the phrase "to whom this may concern".
Hi Honi,

Welcome to the Forum.

I'd just like to repeat for you this note that I wrote in an earlier post in this thread.

A few special cases were described earlier in which 'To whom it may concern' could be used. Other than those, my advice to English learners is to never use this phrase. I don't remember the last time that I used it myself.

Best wishes, Clive
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I would like to thank you for explanations on this phrase. Personally, I hate it. I work as an interpreter and I always have difficulties to deal with this phrase. Part of the problem is in the fact that I can hardly find anything similar in my language and greater part of the problem is in the fact that I work in the company where official working language is English but people who work in the company are rarely English native speakers and tend too much to use phrases they do not understand properly. Thus, I often come to the situations to either completely drop this phrase or change it as best fits the context.
Hi,

I often come to the situations to either completely drop this phrase or change it as best fits the context.Your instincts are right. Emotion: smile

Good luck, Clive
Strangely enough I used the phrase only recently. It was in a letter signed by a parent to allow their child to travel with me. In that case it is entirely correct because it is not known who is going to read the letter. I concede that the phrase is completely unnecessary, but then so is "Dear Sir". It is just a matter of form.
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Aronika28I would like to thank you for explanations on this phrase. Personally, I hate it. I work as an interpreter and I always have difficulties to deal with this phrase. Part of the problem is in the fact that I can hardly find anything similar in my language and greater part of the problem is in the fact that I work in the company where official working language is English but people who work in the company are rarely English native speakers and tend too much to use phrases they do not understand properly. Thus, I often come to the situations to either completely drop this phrase or change it as best fits the context.

Lots of languages have phrases that can be translated literally, but have no equivalent. A French sign would say: Il est formellement inderdit de fumer = It is formally forbidden to smoke, but an English sign would just say No smoking.

As an aside, I loved the sign I saw in Tunisia: Don't come inside.
 anonymous's reply was promoted to an answer.
Hi,

However, if I may repeat my earlier comment, I think that most people would need to write such a beginning to a letter quite rarely.Emotion: smile

Clive
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CliveHi,

I disagree. Emotion: smile

A few special cases were described earlier in which 'To whom it may concern' could be used. Other than those, my advice to English learners is to never use this phrase. I don't remember the last time that I used it myself.

In addition, I never see letters here in N. America with 'Yours faithfully'.

Best wishes, Clive

The only time I have ever used it was in an open reference for an employee leaving without a specific job to go to. In this case, it is impossible to address the letter to anyone. It is best not used in most circumstances.
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