I have a question about "of"

This is only the beginning of what they will do.

In this sentence, do I need "of"?

In my opinion, even though I say...

This is only the beginning what they will do.

...this sentence still makes sense. Can anyone explain why I need to use "of" between "beginning" and "what"?

4 Answers 4


In general, preposition phrases, like "of what they will do", indicate a relationship between their object noun to some other part of the sentence.

Here, the preposition "of" indicates the relationship to the noun "beginning".

It's ungrammatical in English to have one noun followed by another, except when creating compound nouns like "web site", "ice cream", "classroom" etc., which is not the case here.

  • 2
    You could lose of if you divided the sentence in two with a stop or with a semicolon and completed it, as in: This is only the beginning; what they will do will horrify you. Apr 15, 2022 at 0:01

Yes, you do need to use "of". The sentence would be ungrammatical without it. It probably sounds correct to you, because your mother tongue works that way. Here are a few more similar examples:

the beginning of the end

the end of the spectrum

at the start of the meeting

the onset of war

the inception of world bowls

  • world bowls? Like in sports?
    – Lambie
    Apr 14, 2022 at 19:17
  • @Lambie Yeah, I think so. I got that phrase from the Oxford Dictionary. Apr 14, 2022 at 19:26

In theory, yes, you could drop "of", but you would also have to drop "the". In practice, it is unlikely to be used that way.

The reason is that "beginning" can be used in two ways. In "the beginning of", "beginning" is a gerund: a verb form being used as a noun. Nouns can have articles ("the"), and can have phrases like "what they will do" attached with "of".

The other way for "beginning" to be used is as a verb, in the present continuous form "is beginning". The object of a verb is not marked with "of", so that's why you can leave "of" out. However, you must also leave out "the", because verbs don't use articles.

So, "this is beginning what they will do" is grammatically correct, but it is awkward phrasing. A more natural, idiomatic way to use "is beginning" is with an infinitive ("to"-verb) as its object, as in the following examples… or, of course, to turn it into a gerund followed by "of".

This is beginning to do what they will do.

This is beginning to demonstrate what they will do.

Also, the meaning of "this is beginning what they will do" is strange. It means that "this" (some object?) starts to do something that "they" (some group of people?) will do later on. I would not expect "this" to be the right pronoun here. I would want "they" to be the subject of both verbs ("begin" and "do"), or else for there to be different verbs:

They are beginning what they will do. [Still a bit awkward.]

I am beginning what they will finish. [Good grammar. A bit overdramatic though!]


I'm afraid you have to keep the "of".

When beginning means "the time when something starts or the first part of an event, a story, etc.", it is used as follows:

beginning of something

"Something" is a noun. You can replace it with some other noun or anything that can "function" as a noun:

the beginning of 1996
the beginning of the film
the beginning of their relationship
the beginning of the end
the beginning of what may be the end of humanity

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