I have a system of linear equations that make up an ** NxM** matrix (i.e. Non-square) which I need to solve - or at least

*attempt*to solve in order to show that there is no solution to the system. (more likely than not, there will be no solution)

As I understand it, if my matrix is not square (over or under-determined), then no **exact solution** can be found - am I correct in thinking this? Is there a way to transform my matrix into a square matrix in order to calculate the determinate, apply Gaussian Elimination, Cramer's rule, etc?

It may be worth mentioning that the coefficients of my unknowns *may* be zero, so in certain, rare cases it would be possible to have a zero-column or zero-row.

Whether or not your matrix is square is not what determines the solution space. It is the rank of the matrix compared to the number of columns that determines that (see the rank-nullity theorem). In general you can have zero, one or an infinite number of solutions to a linear system of equations, depending on its rank and nullity relationship.

To answer your question, however, you can use Gaussian elimination to find the rank of the matrix and, if this indicates that solutions exist, find a particular solution x0 and the nullspace Null(A) of the matrix. Then, you can describe all your solutions as x = x0 + xn, where xn represents any element of Null(A). For example, if a matrix is full rank its nullspace will be empty and the linear system will have at most one solution. If its rank is also equal to the number of rows, then you have one unique solution. If the nullspace is of dimension one, then your solution will be a line that passes through x0, any point on that line satisfying the linear equations.