'at first', 'in the beginning' and 'in the first place'

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Could you explain the difference between 'at first', 'in the beginning' and 'in the first place'. I think sometimes they are interchangeable for the same meaning. What do you experts think? Thank you so much as always.

asked Dec 08 '12 at 04:19 Hans Contributor

2 answers


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'At first' and 'in the beginning' both describe a situation that later changed.  

"At first, I liked her but now I hate her."

"In the beginning, their marriage was happy but now they argue all the time."

'In the first place' is quite different: it is used to introduce the first and most important reason for something, followed by one or more additional reasons. 

"I don't like her. In the first place, she's dishonest.  And she's also lazy."

"I'm quitting my job.  In the first place, it is so boring and in the second place, I hate my boss.".  

And 'in the first place' can also be used to scold or criticize someone for something they should or shouldn't have done.  It simply means 'before'. 

"I don't care if you're hungover today.  You shouldn't have drunk so much in the first place!  Go mow the lawn!"

"She's getting a divorce?  That's too bad, but she shouldn't have married him in the first place."

link edited Dec 08 '12 at 09:48 Shawn Mooney Expert

Thank you so much, so can we say that 'at first' and 'in the beginning' are synonymous? I am learning new things every day:) Thank you so much again.

HansDec 08 '12 at 11:13

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Hi again, yes 'at first' and 'in the beginning' are synonymous.  'At first' is more common.

link comment answered Dec 08 '12 at 13:38 Shawn Mooney Expert

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