Someone wrote:

At one point a funny story happened to me.

It continues:

I'm studying English in the private English language school called SPEAK UP. Several days ago one teacher invited the students to a pub quiz, right. When I got there, they had already settled down in the pub....

I changed the first sentence to:

Some time ago/ once a funny story happened to me.

I think "At one point" is used to begin a story like :

At one point we stopped at a gas station....

Before describing an event, but not a good choice for the sentence above. Right?

In general, what's its usage?

Beside I think the right in the continuation of the story doesn't sound good and is extra. Right?

  • 1
    Because it's a story, it's very hard to judge without reading the whole story. It's quite possible that a writer may deliberately choose to be vague and jump right into the middle of the story right from the start. -- Consider, a simplified narrative such as: He was looking at her curiously. It was raining heavily outside. He tried to recall if he had ever met her because the face looked so familiar. After finishing her coffee, she left. He was now alone again. The barista smiled at him. He lifted his cup and sipped his coffee again. -- We don't know who she was, where he was, etc. – Damkerng T. Dec 23 '16 at 8:40
  • @damkerngt. I added more info... – Ahmad Dec 23 '16 at 9:41
  • Ahmad, please stop asking multiple questions in one. Don't label the question as one about "at one point" and then also ask about "right" in an aside. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 23 '16 at 11:29

The implication of at one point is "at one point in time", that is, at one point in a series of points in space-time.

Driving along the narrow mountain roads was dangerous. At one point, we thought the truck was going to topple into the gorge.

Thus, to begin a statement with at one point would be a non-sequitur. There would have been no explicit setting of context to explain it, as in the mountain road example above, and so it could confuse the listener or reader. However, a long-standing convention of storytelling is that a storyteller has the freedom to begin a story in medias res. There, the non-sequitur is a narrative device not a logical shortcoming.

  • Thank you for your great explanation but could you please clarify that "at one point" can begin something like "at one point, a funny thing happened to me"? based on your explanation it is not an event in a series of events. But what are other alternatives to begin this story? – Ahmad Dec 23 '16 at 12:03
  • I don't understand the first part of your question. "clarify that it can begin something". Do you mean "clarify whether...?" A tried and true alternative would be to begin with "Once". It is understood to refer to some time in the past. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 23 '16 at 12:10
  • yes whether. I mean please directly tell me whether "at one point" is natural in that sentence or not, it seems you mean not. – Ahmad Dec 23 '16 at 12:52
  • Please read my answer over again, as it answers the question whether to begin a sentence with "At one point" is "natural". If, by natural, you are excluding storytelling, then it is not natural to begin a statement in that way. It would be a non-sequitur. It would be like beginning a conversation with "And then..." – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 23 '16 at 12:55
  • You indirectly say the exact usage of it, but it doesn't mean English for whatever reason won't use it in the case above too. For example this link phrasemix.com/phrases/at-one-point says it's used to begin a story so I got doubtful how? – Ahmad Dec 23 '16 at 13:02

At one point is used to describe the situation at one particular, unspecified, time. It is usually used close to the end of a scene in a story to provide additional information about what happened during that scene.

For example, imagine describing an afternoon outing, part of which involved a rowing boat and either incompetent oarsmen or drunk passengers. After telling the story of this scene you might add:

At one point, there were more people in the water than in the boat.

You are not saying when exactly in the scene this happened: it is completely unrelated to the sequence of events. You are simply providing additional information to help the listener or reader visualise what happened.

Note that it is not correct to start a story with

... a funny story happened to me.

The story is a description of what happened, not what actually happened. When telling this kind of story, the conventional word for the event itself is thing

... a funny thing happened to me.

If you want to start a story with a funny thing happened to me, you should really to give a general impression of when, and maybe where, it happened:

A funny thing happened to me at work yesterday...
A funny thing happened to me last week...

There is actually a musical and a film entitled A funny thing happened on the way to the forum.

Regarding right in your story: this is something that people sometimes say, but rarely write. It would work if this paragraph is dialogue- something that a character in your story says- but it would not look natural if it were a part of your own story.

  • Thank you for the "thing" point, but yet we don't say "at one point, a funny thing happened to me" do we? if not, what are the other alternatives to start this story? – Ahmad Dec 23 '16 at 12:00
  • No, you cannot start a story with "at one point": this expression can only be used near the end of a scene in the story. I have updated my answer to explain how to use "a funny thing happened..." to start a story. – JavaLatte Dec 23 '16 at 12:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.