At the beginning/In the beginning

Edgardg

Senior Member
Polish, Poland
Hi,
Could you tell me the difference between "at the beginning/in the beginning"?
Are they interchangeable?

Thank you.
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    At the beginning is more "space and time" than in the beginning, which is time (he said, scratching his head).

    At the beginning of the book - OK.
    In the beginning of the book - ?

    At the beginning of the year - OK.
    In the beginning of the year - ?

    I'm kind of stuck because "In the beginning ..." has an immediate biblical resonance. I see from a quick Google that this is very common. The examples I see are directly or by allusion referring to the Christian Bible.

    I might suggest also that "At ..." is a point, "In ..." is a period.

    Edit: Thanks again, river, for finding that. I missed it somehow. Good to see that I didn't contradict myself:p
     

    Edgardg

    Senior Member
    Polish, Poland
    At the beginning of the book - OK.
    In the beginning of the book - ?

    At the beginning of the year - OK.
    In the beginning of the year - ?
    Panjandrum, do the question marks mean that the sentences sound weird or that they are incorrect?
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    At the beginning is more "space and time" than in the beginning, which is time (he said, scratching his head).

    At the beginning of the book - OK.
    In the beginning of the book - ?

    At the beginning of the year - OK.
    In the beginning of the year - ?

    I'm kind of stuck because "In the beginning ..." has an immediate biblical resonance. I see from a quick Google that this is very common. The examples I see are directly or by allusion referring to the Christian Bible.

    I might suggest also that "At ..." is a point, "In ..." is a period.

    Edit: Thanks again, river, for finding that. I missed it somehow. Good to see that I didn't contradict myself:p
    I have one idea to add that I did not see mentioned.

    I believe I use "in the beginning" in this way:

    "In the beginning [of the book] it appears that…"

    With this wording I would be thinking of the first few chapters. I believe this agrees with the idea that using "in" refers to something longer.

    If you Google "in the beginning of the book" vs. "at the beginning of the book", the latter is more common. However, I believe there is a difference in nuance.

    If we know that we are talking about a book, a film, a play, etc., we might use "in the beginning" to refer to something that starts "at the beginning" and then goes on for awhile.

    Gaer
     

    Kirja

    Senior Member
    Finnish
    Is there any difference between "at the beginning" and "in the beginning"? I looked it up in the dictionary, but that didn't help at all.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    At the beginning is always followed by "of" and a place or time - e.g. "At the beginning of the day..." or "At the beginning of the path..."

    In the beginning is not followed by 'of' and always followed by a comma and a new clause e.g. "In the beginning, John thought he saw Mary approach the house. Later, he found it was Joan." or "In the beginning, few would have thought that his campaign would succeed."
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Greetings!

    Could you offer a further context, please? Both prepositions are found with "beginning" (so is "from"), and the Authorised Version of the Bible starts, famously, with "In the beginning...", which has of course influenced language and literature ever since. But "At..." would probably be more commonly spoken or heard today.
     

    Kirja

    Senior Member
    Finnish
    Erm... panjandrum said he would say "at the beginning of the book" instead of "in the beginning of the book" while Gaer said it's "in the beginning of the book". So can I say both? Does it matter if I use mostly just "at the beginning". Cause now I got the impression that "in the beginning" is only used when talking about something really grandiloquent... :D
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Cause now I got the impression that "in the beginning" is only used when talking about something really grandiloquent...:D
    Yes you're right. If I were you, I would ignore 16th century English and move into the 21st century!:D

    Have a look at my post #9 and see what you think.
     

    montmorencywrf

    Member
    English - England (south-central)
    Kirja,

    If it helps to remember, there is a nice quote from Lewis Carroll:

    "Begin at the beginning,", the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop”
    I like PaulQ's explanation, and to me "In the beginning" does indeed conjure up the King James Bible.

    Having said that, I think there are still one or two occasions when it might be preferred, but I couldn't define them for you, and I think you will always be safe with "At the beginning".
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    Panjandrum, in post #4, says "...I might suggest also that "At ..." is a point, "In ..." is a period." I think this is the best answer. We say "At this point, he interrupted..." not "In this point...". "At the beginning of the year" means perhaps very early in January. We would not say "In the beginning of the year" as that is too vague. But the Biblical "In the beginning..." is appropriate, because it just means "Before anything else", but not a particular point. We might say "At the beginning of time" because that indicates a precise point. Does that make sense?
     

    sb70012

    Senior Member
    Azerbaijani/Persian
    Hi as far as I know they are interchangeable.
    Hello Suzi,
    Not always.
    At the beginning is always followed by "of"
    Hello Paul,
    Paul, not always.

    Could we start at the beginning? Tell me where you first met him.
    As I said at the beginning, conditions were a little better and bream were rolling and giving line bites
    This is no signature at the end, Harry, but a prophecy at the beginning.

    at the beginning (of)= start of something
    in the beginning = initially
     
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