This is from The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant

Although we have harbours and pineries not one whit inferior to theirs... they, having so much the start of us, have thoroughly established trade, whereas we have to a great extent yet to make ourselves known abroad.

I have seen the idiom 'have a head start on/over someone' So my logic goes that the 'of' in the italic part above can be replaced with on/over. Would it be natural to your ears?

1 Answer 1


They have "a head start" on us. They were doing this before we were. This the start of is just an older collocation. the start of us hasn't really been in use for the last two hundred years.

The start on is a century or so more modern than the start of but it too has largely fallen by the wayside except in regional dialects.

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