I need comments from native speakers on the following question.

I know "to begin with" can be used to introduce the first of several points. But if there's only one point to make, can we still use "to begin with"?

Suppose that toward the end of the introductory paragraph, you said you were going to discuss a problem. Then you began the 2nd paragraph with "To begin with, it is a common observation that..." and explained the problem and proposed a solution, but that was all there is to the essay. No other point was discussed. Would you use "to begin with" in this manner?

I'd appreciate your help.


You are correct; you only use "to begin with" if there is more than one factor or step.

However, you could still start the 2nd paragraph "To begin with, it is a common observation that..." if you followed up with something like "Furthermore, ...", and then "Finally, ....". In other words, you could have several points you wish to make in your 2nd paragraph, in which case it's perfectly valid to start it with "To begin with".

If that's not the case, then don't use it. Just start the 2nd paragraph with "It is a common observation that...."

  • Thank you, If I want a transitional phrase that links the first paragraph to the second, what could I use? – Apollyon Jan 28 '17 at 5:29

No. To begin with implies that more options are to come. Don't use it if there is only one item to list or one point to make.

  • Thank you. Can I say instead "To begin the discussion, it is a common observation that..."? – Apollyon Jan 28 '17 at 5:38
  • To begin the discussion is fine if it is truly the beginning of your discussion. Starting this way gives a sense of an academic debate or formal presentation, so I would avoid it in informal use – Curtis White Jan 28 '17 at 14:48

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