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this question arose from a discussion with a friend of mine.

So it all started with the following:

"Look mate, if you want to get very strong you got to start lifting weights! That's the first step to it"

The question is about the "That's the first step to it"-part. Is this correct? And if so what does it exactly mean? Does it mean something like "First step towards a strong body"? Or is it more like "First necessary step"?

I suggested that we could just say "That's the first step.". But the discussion unfolded and now we wonder about whether the "step to it" would also be correct or not.

We started to talk about a bunch of alternatives but we could not agree which of them are really correct and which aren't and what they would actually mean if they were correct. They might even all be correct but vary in meaning. So could you please help us out to end this discussion and annotate which one of the following are correct and how they should be understood?:

  • "...you got to start lifting weights! That's the first step."
  • "...you got to start lifting weights! That's the first step to it."
  • "...you got to start lifting weights! That's the first step towards it."
  • "...you got to start lifting weights! That's the first step to your goal."
  • "...you got to start lifting weights! That's the first step towards your goal."
  • "...you got to start lifting weights! That's the first step to achieve your goal.
  • "...you got to start lifting weights! That's the first step to achieving your goal.

And as a final thing: could you please also tell which one would be the most 'normal' way a native-speaker would say this.

Thanks in advance

  • I read it as "the first step in the process". But all of your examples are perfectly natural, including "first step to it". – Andrew Nov 1 '16 at 13:25
  • "That's the first step to it" is perfectly "correct". They're all just fine. There is no "correct" way of speaking, but there is an "incorrect" way; for instance "That's the first step before it" or something like that. You seem to understand the language, and you're doing just fine—so stop worrying! – P. E. Dant Nov 1 '16 at 20:19
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    Your examples are all good, and they are arranged from most colloquial to most formal. In the context of an informal conversation in the gym, use the short ones. If you were writing a motivational book, use the longer expressions. – John Feltz Dec 2 '16 at 13:29
  • All of them sound correct to me, except "first step to achieve your goal". I would rather say "first step to achieving your goal" which you have included. – tamayura May 9 '17 at 18:09
  • In your examples, "you got to" is not considered formal English. More formal English would be "you have got to" or, the most formall, "you have to". Many native speakers are taught not to say "you got to", but it is commonly heard. – whiskeychief Apr 12 at 10:07
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I think 2 sentences are being mixed up here:

  1. That's all there is to it.

  2. That's the first step.

You can use the first if you want to say it's not too difficult and it is all that needs to be done, nothing more.

you can use the second one if there is more than 1 thing you need to do.

In the first example you could have told a story to which someone asks what else happened but you have already told the whole story and know of nothing more to do so you reply with: "That's all there is to it."

In the second example you want to give a step by step program which will lead to something: "The first step to success is...."

as for the options you've mentioned these sentences are not correct:

  • "...you got to start lifting weights! That's the first step to it."
  • "...you got to start lifting weights! That's the first step to achieve your goal."
  • "...you got to start lifting weights! That's the first step to achieving your goal.

The last sentence can be correct if you write it with "in" instead of to

"...you got to start lifting weights! That's the first step in achieving your goal."

I am not a native speaker but I believe the most normal way would either be using (where the first has my preference):

"Look mate, if you want to get very strong you got to start lifting weights! That's all there is to it."

Or saying:

Look mate, the first step to getting very strong is to start lifting weights!

  • The first step to[wards] getting very strong is to lift weights. – FumbleFingers Nov 1 '16 at 17:58

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