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Please help me figure out which preposition is correct and give me a reason.

In China, students always use the book to learn alphabets in/at/on the beginning stage of learning English.

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  • Why would Chinese students need a whole book from which to learn the (effectively arbitrary) sequence of 26 symbols? In most fonts, the complete list would be less than a single line of text, even if you included both upper and lower case, and spaces between each symbol. Commented May 9, 2014 at 18:15
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you for answering. How do you write a sentence expressing this?
    – Shan
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 18:19
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    In China, students always use a book to learn the alphabet in the first stage(s) of learning English. It still seems like a rather odd thing to say anyway, but I'm not sure exactly what you want to convey. Personally, I don't really see how "using a book" comes into it. A more meaningful and "natural" statement might be something like Chinese students always learn the alphabet as the first stage in learning English. Commented May 9, 2014 at 18:35
  • @FumbleFingers "the book" would be acceptable - the assumption being that which book it is was already specified in a prior sentence.
    – Alexander
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 18:43
  • Yes – 'in the first stages', but 'as the first stage'. Commented May 9, 2014 at 19:16

2 Answers 2

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"In" or "at" are both acceptable to specify a stage or point in time. "On" is less used for that purposes, and tends to be more informal. Someone might say "We're on learning the alphabet in Chinese class", but it would be less likely to be written in a more formal sentence, like the one you've given as an example.

Incidentally, alphabet is singular when you are talking about only one set of letters (the "English alphabet"; but "the Greek and Tamil alphabets").

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Strictly answering your question and making the sentence correct. There is only one alphabet in question—the English alphabet. This is done "in" the beginning stage since a stage is a period of time. You do the action while you are "in" the stage.

In China, students always use the book to learn the alphabet in the beginning stage of learning English.

English learners from a Chinese background will often use too many commas near the beginning of sentences. This sentence could be made more clear by flipping the order of the words:

Students in China always use the book to learn the alphabet in the beginning stage of learning English.

Or to change the words some:

Chinese students begin to learn English by studying the alphabet in the book.

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