What is the meaning of the phrase "in the first place" and how to use it in a sentence. I have heard this phrase couple of times in the debates on the news channels and also in some other programs. I tried to find out the meaning of this phrase on the Internet but Internet was not of much help so I want a deep explanation on the meaning of this phrase and also on the usage of this phrase.
In most contexts, in the first place [assertion A] is a somewhat metaphoric usage where first doesn't really have anything to do with the temporal sense of A being in some way earliest in time.
It's usually used in contexts where there are several relevant factors that might be mentioned by the speaker. But assertion A is the most important one (and/or the one from which further supporting assertions logically follow, and the speaker intends to go on and make those further assertions).
In short, it's sense 2 in oxforddictionaries: first - Foremost in position, rank, or importance.
USAGE NOTE: The metaphorical usage referred to above almost always occurs before the relevant assertion. Consider...
1: In the first place John was there.
(The fact that John was there is central to the points I'm about to make.)
2: John was there in the first place.
(John was already there before whatever happened next that I'm going to tell you about.)
It's also worth noting that usage #1 generally occurs in contexts where the speaker is refuting, or disagreeing with someone else's prior assertion (you wouldn't be so likely to use it as the opening line to start a conversation or make a point).
The definition from dictionary.com:
- From the beginning, at the outset, before anything else. For example, Why didn't you tell me in the first place that you've decided to leave? or He could have bought a new one in the first place.
- As the first of several items in order of importance. This phrase is usually accompanied by in the second place, third place, and so on, as in I'm not joining the health club because, in the first place, I don't like their hours, and in the second place, I can't afford the dues. [ First half of 1600s ]
It is often used in debates if you have several things you are about to cover. For example:
A: Mr. B has repeatedly beaten his wife with a poker.
B: In the first place, I don't have a wife. In the second place my poker hasn't left the hearth in 30 years.
used to separate and emphasize reasons or opinions:
I don't want to go yet - in the first place I'm not ready, and in the second place it's raining.
Cambridge Dictionaries Online
"In the first place" basically means "as the first point of consideration" and is often used when chastising someone for not following advice:
We wouldn't have gotten so soaked if you'd thought to buy an umbrella in the first place!
The implication here is that at some point the person being chastised had an opportunity to buy an umbrella, but declined to do so.