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Thread: in the beginning vs at the beginning

  1. #1
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    in the beginning vs at the beginning

    I am going insane here, so I'd like a native speaker to confirm/refute. My feeling is that "at the beginning" is a specific point in time. So, basically, today, in the year 2006, we are not "at the beginning of the 21st century" but "in the beginning of the 21st century". Is this accurate? Is there anything else I should know?
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  2. #2
    Почтенный гражданин Volk's Avatar
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    "At the beginning" is a starting point for something, so it would be "At the beginning of the 21st century".

    "At the beginning" is commonly used with years and points in time.

    You're looking at it quite literally since it does look like it should be "in" if you visualise a scale, 2006 is more "in" the line than 2000 which is "at" the line, but gramatically I'm sure it's still "at".

    "In the beginning" suggests something has changed, so you can say "In the beginning (a general beginning of something), this happened, but then that happened".

    When you introduce the year it doesn't sound right unless you change it to "at the beginning". I'm not positive on that though, but if what you want to say doesn't involve a change then it isn't relevant, just use "at".
    Please correct any Russian language mistakes I make.

  3. #3
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    So, you are saying that "in the beginning" is a way of saying "at first"? Hmm, interesting. I did not think about it as of a way to introduce a contrast or something.
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  4. #4
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    I can't think of any circumstances where 'in the beginning... ' sounds better that "at the beginning... ", other than when imitating the first line of the King James Bible ("In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth").

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    *taking down notes* "avoid "in the beginning" at any cost unless you are about to change confession".

    So, just to make sure, if I'd like to say

    Today, [at] the beginning of the 21st century, we are still using [something obsolete, a stone, a stick, etc] to perform brain surgery, I should use "at" rather than bug people with stupid questions?
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  6. #6
    Почтенный гражданин Volk's Avatar
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    Sure, go with "at". If you search on Google for people's assignment papers you'll get more results with "At the beginning" in any case.

    This is a good reference I just found for more info, last post specifically:

    http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=141097
    Please correct any Russian language mistakes I make.

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    Thanks to everybody
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    Your initial impression is right imo. "At" sounds more precise, and suggests a particular point in time. "In" is more fluid and implies a more vague idea. At the beginning implies at the very starting point. In the beginning is a freer expression, at least it seems so to me. In the beginning, ie as opposed to the middle or the end.

    In the beginning can also suggest contrast as someone said already. In the beginning it was this, but then later it was that. At the beginning can also suggest contrast, but less so. "At first" is more like "in the beginning" in that sense. At first it was like this but then later it was like that.

    At the beginning of the year suggests to me, Jan 1 or early Jan. In the beginning of the year suggests early on in the year.



    edit - another example... He scored a goal in the beginning of the game, ie not near the end of the game or in the middle of the game, but during the early stages of the game. But, at the beginning of the game, the score was 0-0.

  9. #9
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    The bottom line:

    When you specifically state the time, use "at the beginning"

    At the beginning of the month - NOT in the beginning of the month.


    When you don't state the time, or it is not important, you can use either, although "at" still sounds more precise.

    In the beginning there were four, now there are five.
    OR - At the beginning there were four, now there are five.

  10. #10
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    Правильно ли я поняла разницу?

    В русском языке есть очень близкие, но всё же разные выражения:

    в начале - at the beginning

    вначале - in the beginning

  11. #11
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    ИМХО, да.
    «И всё, что сейчас происходит внутре — тоже является частью вселенной».

  12. #12
    Почтенный гражданин BabaYaga's Avatar
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    I agree with Basurero, but I'd like to add to it:

    "at the beginning": you state the time, it's a specific moment.

    "in the beginning": the exact moment isn't really specified, because it's about a period of time.


    At the beginning of the school year, the children get their books. (the school year starts with the handing out of books; they still have the whole school year before them after that moment.)

    In the beginning of the school year, the children find everything very difficult (the first couple of weeks/months - but then they advance, learn, and find it less difficult - can be after a period of several months. To indicate such a long period of time, I would personally never use "at the beginning".)
    Ой, голова у меня кружится |-P ...... and my brain hurts too....

  13. #13
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    Baba Yaga is correct.

    However, I personally believe "in the beginning" doesn't sound very nice in general. In the second situation Baba Yaga mentioned, I most likely wouln't use either of these phrases. I'd probably say something like "for the first few months/at first... etc" instead.

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