“At The Beginning”  vs  “In The Beginning”

At The Beginning - GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!

| GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!he usage and meaning of these two Prepositional Phrases are very similar — and quite-often, they are used inter-changeably.  However — there is actually a very distinct difference between the two.  And — even though a great-many native speakers may use them both in the same way — they should NOT.  Here is why…

At The Beginning Refers To A Specific Place — (Whether Physical or Metaphorical)

At The Beginning - GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!

In The Beginning Refers To A Period Of Time

At The Beginning vs In The Beginning - GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!

Examples Of Usage

Prepositional phrases almost always come at the beginning of a sentence.”

—  Here we are talking about a Specific Place… “At the beginning of the sentence.”  (Even though that “place” may be on a page or on your computer-screen — it is still a specific place.)  😉

At the beginning of the class, the teacher usually discusses what will be learned.”

—  Here we are talking about a Metaphorical Place — it is a “place in time”.  Of course, one could say that “the teacher discussing something” would last for a Period Of Time.  But in this statement, the focus is on a “Moment” in time, rather than the experience of a period of time.

In the beginning of the story, we learn that our hero has not yet discovered the hidden power that he has with-in himself.”

—  Here we are talking about a Period Of Time…  “In the beginning of the story”.  This particular Period Of Time, could last for a long amount of “time” within the story, or it could be a very short part of the story.  But the focus is not on one single moment.

Notice — Since there is never really a single “moment” of time that does not also last for a period of time (no matter how small) — If and when there is ever a debate on the subject, just think about it this way:

“At” the moment of time is referring to that moment as a whole unit, and the experience of the length of time does not matter.

“In” the period of time is acknowledging it AS a “period of time”, where-in the experiencing of it DOES matter.

  • At The Beginning = For A Specific Place (Physical or Metaphorical — NEVER for a Period of Time)


  • In The Beginning = For A Period Of Time  (NEVER for a Specific Place)

| GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!t should be noted that some people use these two phrases incorrectly;  Using “At The Begnning” to talk about a Period Of Time, and the phrase “In The Beginning” to talk about a Specific Moment In Time.  However — simply by using the logic of the prepositions “At” and “In” — this does not make sense.

| GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!nd although a person who has learned British English might disagree — because they say “At The Weekend” (which is clearly a period of time) — they are wrong.

RememberJust because “everyone” says or does something in a certain way, that does not mean that they are correct.  Common mistakes like these are perpetuated because native speakers of any language do not learn by using logic.  They learn by repeating what those around them say, and they become set in their ways BEFORE they learn the correct way in school (if that ever happens at all).  But luckily for you, that is not the way that I do things  😎

Additional Notes About The Use Of Prepositions

The preposition “At” implies a Specific Place
(Whether that “place” is physical or metaphorical)

| GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!ow, a British-English speaking person may say that “The Weekend” is a specific place “On The Calendar”.  But that is exactly why we say “On Friday”, “On Saturday”, “On Sunday”.  But “The Weekend” is all three days.  So “At” does not make sense.  The correct and logical way is to say:  “During the weekend”.

The preposition “In” implies being “Inside of”
or “within the boundaries of” some other “thing”
(period of time, a boring classroom, a large metal box, etc.)

You can not be “In” a place…  only a “thing”
(whether physical or metaphorical)

| GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!ut now I can hear you thinking:  “That doesn’t make sense!  My country is a place, and I am IN my country!”.  That may be so.  But what makes a body of land into country?   Boundaries.  A country has boundaries.  And everything within those boundaries is “In” that country.  😉

And there you have it!  You are now smarter than most native English speakers about the proper usage of the phrases “At The Beginning” & In The Beginning” — as well as the general usage of the prepositions:  “At” & “In” — and a little bit of “On” & “During”.  I hope that helps.



Have An Excellent Day!


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