In the beginning VS AT the beginning

Hela

Senior Member
Tunisia - French
Dear friends,

Would you please tell me when should I use "IN the beginning" or "AT the beginning" ?

Thank you in advance,
Hela
 
  • Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    You've asked a very good question, Hela! It's so good that I'm not sure I have a good answer for you. After thinking about this for a while, I've come to some tentative conclusions:

    1. "In the beginning" are the first 3 words of many English translations of the Hebrew Old Testament; therefore, because for many English speakers, they resonate with religiosity, they are used less often than "at the beginning."

    2. In the phrase, "let's begin ---- the beginning," AT appears to be almost universally used.

    3. If a speaker or a writers uses "at the end," then they are much more likely to use "AT the beginning" in contrast. Similarly, if the person uses "in the end," "in the beginning" will appear as the contrasting phrase.

    Otherwise, I'd say the phrases are used interchangeably by most AE speakers/writers. I'd be interested in hearing what other native speakers think, however.

    Hope this helps a little bit.
     

    lgoldfish

    New Member
    English, US
    Hi Hela,
    well, I'm no expert (I'm new to this forum), but I think that "at the beginning" implies a reference to a more specific point in time, where as "in the beginning" implies something occuring over a slightly longer period of time. They are often interchangeable, though. One example that's almost always "at" instead of "in" is the phrase "Start at the beginning."

    I'll be interested to hear what others have to say.
    all the best:),
    lauren
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Welcome to WordReference, Lauren:)
    I share your feeling that in the beginning covers a much longer period while at the beginning is a precise moment.

    I also reckon that Joelline is right about the reason for in the beginning being used less often. People will happily talk about in the end, or at the end (with the difference suggested already for the beginning), but in the beginning seems to me to be uncommon in normal use.
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    The Oxford Learner's Dictionary has an interesting usage note:

    At the beginning (of) is used for the time and place when something begins. In the beginning (= at first) suggests a contrast with a later situation

    However the Cambridge Dictionary has an example where "at/in" are shown to be interchangeable in the "contrast" sense:

    I enjoyed my job at/in the beginning but I'm bored with it now
     

    tigerduck

    Senior Member
    German / Switzerland
    Hello

    Is there a difference between 'in the beginning' and 'at the beginning'?

    One of my students wrote:

    In the beginning we will discuss if it is really necessary to develop a new product.

    Shouldn't it be At the beginning?

    Thanks
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    To get the cultural association out of the way first, it is difficult for some of us to hear In the beginning ... without thinking Bible, Genesis ...

    Both in the beginning and at the beginning seem to me to be referring backwards - either to past history or to personal experience. Your student is talking about what he is going to do, to analyse in the next few paragraphs. So I like To begin with ... or First of all ...
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    imithe
    I would like to start with.......lets start at the beginning

    In the beginning god created man
    Oh no he didn't!
    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. :D


    I would only use "in the beginning" after an event, and I would only use "at the beginning" if I was about to outline a series of forthcoming actions — at the beginning of the course, we will ABC. Then we will DEF. That will be followed… well, you get the idea.
     

    tigerduck

    Senior Member
    German / Switzerland
    Thank you for all your very helpful answers. It is so hard being an English teach without being a native speaker and all your answers are very much appreciated.

    The reference to the bible was very helpful, too.

    Thanks
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    :arrow: :arrow: Response to Post #16:
    Is it better to say "at the beginning of the chapter" or "in the beginning of the chapter"?
    Welcome to the forum, NativeRussian! :)

    I think it may depend on what you are talking about.

    Could you tell us the rest of the sentence? Are you talking about the writing style, or the content, or something else?
     

    MYLAA

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Hello
    What is the difference between at the begining and in the begining?

    [...]
    Thanks
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    What is the difference between at the beginning and in the beginning?

    At the beginning of the book there is the book's title - This is the very start of the book - the first words of the story
    In the beginning of the book, the hero is trapped but escapes and makes his way to Cairo. - this describes the first things that happen in the book.

    See post #4
     

    MikeLynn

    Senior Member
    I've been struggling with the difference between in and at the beginning/end for quite a time myself. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel that the in versions are feely by adverbs, while the at ones are not and are usually followed by ...of something, unless it's implied in the previous context. Thank you for your contributions
    M
     

    loureed4

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    So...is it correct to say: "At the beginning of that sentence, you can see the word 'X' that...." ?

    (I run into this sentence, and googling, I came to this thread) . :)
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    What is the difference between at the beginning and in the beginning?

    At the beginning of the book there is the book's title - This is the very start of the book - the first words of the story
    In the beginning of the book, the hero is trapped but escapes and makes his way to Cairo. - this describes the first things that happen in the book.

    See post #4
    Which one is correct?

    1. "In the beginning of the process, flour is mixed with sugar in a machine for about 5 minutes."

    2. "At the beginning of the process, flour is mixed with sugar in a machine for about 5 minutes."

    Note : add this link in post #7 where there is "In the beginning [of the book] it appears that…"
     
    Last edited:

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Which one is correct?

    1. "In the beginning of the process, flour is mixed with sugar in a machine for about 5 minutes."

    2. "At the beginning of the process, flour is mixed with sugar in a machine for about 5 minutes."
    1) "The beginning of the process" has duration. At some time during the phase of the process that is considered to be the beginning, ...
    There may be steps before and after this that are considered to be part of "the beginning of the process."
    2) "The beginning of the process" is a point in time. The first thing you do is mix flour with sugar.
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Which one is correct?

    1. "In the beginning of the process, flour is mixed with sugar in a machine for about 5 minutes."

    2. "At the beginning of the process, flour is mixed with sugar in a machine for about 5 minutes."
    1) "The beginning of the process" has duration. At some time during the phase of the process that is considered to be the beginning, ...
    There may be steps before and after this that are considered to be part of "the beginning of the process."
    2) "The beginning of the process" is a point in time. The first thing you do is mix flour with sugar.
    This is quite similar to the perception of "a time" in this post, which could be perceived as a period or a point in time.
     

    castroteba

    New Member
    Spanish- Spain
    Hi, this is my first post in WR. I think that, "in the beginning" refers to something general like "at first or in the first moment". On the other hand, "at the beginning" refers to the beginning of something:

    In the beginning I didn't really enjoy the course, but after a while I really started to enjoy it.

    At the beginning of the film the main character arrives in town looking for somewhere to stay.


    I hope it helped ;)

    Taken from: Linking words and expressions to express time
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I think that, "in the beginning" refers to something general like "at first or in the first moment". On the other hand, "at the beginning" refers to the beginning of something:

    ...
    Actually, the reverse is true. For example,

    "In the beginning, the book describes the hardship the main character is facing."

    "In" refers to the content of which the book consists. "At the beginning" refers to the time that something starts.
     

    EdisonBhola

    Senior Member
    Korean
    In the following context, which sounds more natural to you?

    It was raining in/at the beginning, but after a while, it stopped and we left for the supermarket.

    Many thanks! :)
     
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