'At the Beginning' or 'In the Beginning'? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 11 June 2024)

At the Beginning or In the Beginning: What Is the Difference?

At the beginning is used when we are referring to the specific point where something begins. It is often followed by the preposition of plus a noun or noun phrase:

✅ At the beginning of the book, the author provides a brief summary of her research.

✅ At the beginning of the concert, the band played their most popular song.

✅ We have a team meeting at the beginning of each month to discuss our goals.

In the beginning is typically used when we are contrasting two situations in time. It tends to cover a much longer period than at the beginning. It is often used in a more abstract or conceptual sense, and is commonly found in religious or philosophical texts:

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. (From the Bible)

✅ In the beginning, the company faced many challenges, but it eventually grew and became successful.

✅ In the beginning, he found the software difficult to use, but he gradually became proficient.

The entry for the phrases at the beginning (of) and in the beginning in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

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Examples from the Media

MaryAnn Westgard spent her time at the beginning of the pandemic writing her life story. —Toronto Star (2021)

In a light-hearted remark at the beginning of the meeting, Qiang said many Chinese people had seen social media posts about Albanese visiting China. —The Sydney Morning Herald (2023)

In the beginning, the collection was composed only of found photographs that they felt spoke to them. Eventually, they began to pursue them actively online, in estate sales and in family archives. —The Washington Post (2020)

"I'm floating on air. I can't believe this actually happened," he said. "My mother worked so hard in her life and it wasn't always very easy being a woman and being the wife of a diplomat and coming from the [O]rient. People did not pay attention to her in the beginning. But she persisted and she kept on." —The Guardian (2017)


In the following sentences, decide whether the expression should be at the beginning or in the beginning.

1. She always sets aside some time for reflection at the beginning/in the beginning of each week.

2. At the beginning/In the beginning, there were only simple organisms on Earth.

3. At the beginning/In the beginning, there was chaos, but order gradually emerged.

4. At the beginning/In the beginning of the month, they announced a new promotion for customers.

5. At the beginning/In the beginning, they had a hard time understanding each other, but now they communicate effectively.

6. At the beginning/In the beginning, the internet was primarily used by academics and the military.

7. I usually review my expenses at the beginning/in the beginning of every month.

8. At the beginning/In the beginning of the meeting, everyone was optimistic.

9. At the beginning/In the beginning of the film, a short tribute to the director was shown.

10. At the beginning/In the beginning, the idea didn't seem promising, but it turned out to be a great success.

Answer Key

1. at the beginning    2. In the beginning    3. In the beginning    4. At the beginning    5. In the beginning    6. In the beginning    7. at the beginning    8. At the beginning    9. At the beginning    10. In the beginning

Recommended Further Reading

'At the End' or 'In the End'?
'Lastly' or 'At Last'?

Real-World Examples of Misuse

1. The verb suggest is followed by a gerund (a noun formed by adding -ing to a verb), rather than an infinitive (to + base verb).
2. In the beginning is often used in a biblical or abstract context, referring to a period of time. On the other hand, at the beginning is more commonly used when referring to a specific point in time or location. In this sentence, since a specific location within the article (the start) is being referred to, at the beginning is more appropriate.
(Image Source: Andrew Yu)

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