Yours sincerely

I saw the definition of (yours) sincerely in a dictionary as below:
an expression used to end a formal letter, especially one that you have begun by using someone’s name

I don’t understand the last part “especially one that you have begun by using someone’s name”. Do you know what it means?

Thank you!!!

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I think it means that you would only end a letter that way if it were someone with whom you have some familiarity, and thus have used their name in the letter. In other words, it may not be appropriate in an impersonal, formal context. But I’m not really certain, usage in English varies from country to country, and with different generations.

I look forward to seeing how others reply.

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The convention in British English is:

If the letter starts with the person’s name “Dear Mr. Smith”, “Dear Mrs. Jones”, “Dear Miss Simms” it should end with “Yours sincerely”.

If the letter begins with “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam” it should end with “Yours faithfully”.

Both are formal. If you know the person’s name you should use it, and end the letter with Yours sincerely. If you don’t know the person’s name use Sir or Madam and end with Yours faithfully.

I think Americans use “Yours truly” instead of “Yours faithfully”. Not sure about other countries.


No, I’ve never seen or used “Yours faithfully” here. I do not recall it being taught.

With email and the informality that it brings, “Yours truly” is probably sounding more stilted as time goes on. But it’s interesting to see how much more floridly letters used to be signed. I was struck by the way that opposing generals during the time of the American Civil War would sign communications to each other:

Confederate General Hood wrote in a missive to U.S. General Sherman, “And now, sir, permit me to say that the unprecedented measure you propose transcends, in studied and ingenious cruelty, all acts ever before brought to my attention in the dark history of war.” Yet he concluded with, “I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant, J. B. HOOD, General.”

And Sherman’s response, which includes “You who, in the midst of peace and prosperity, have plunged a nation into war–dark and cruel war–who dared and badgered us to battle, insulted our flag, seized our arsenals and forts that were left in the honorable custody of peaceful ordnance-sergeants, seized and made “prisoners of war” the
very garrisons sent to protect your people…”, is signed with, "I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.

(By the way, learners of English looking for good reading material, especially if they’re interested in history, could do worse than to read the memoirs of generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S Grant. They are both very readable and very interesting. And they’re available for free at


“especially one that you have begun by using someone’s name” = “especially a formal letter that you have started by using the recipient’s name”.
Example beginnings:
Dear Mr. Kaufman,

In this czse :Mr. Kaufman: is the recipient;s name.