First, firstly or at first ? - English Grammar Today - Cambridge Dictionaries Online Cambridge dictionaries logo
Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English

First, firstly or at first?

from English Grammar Today

First and firstly

First can be an adjective or an adverb and refers to the person or thing that comes before all others in order, time, amount, quality or importance:

What’s the name of the first person who walked on the moon? (adjective)

Beth always arrives first at meetings. (adverb)

We often use first, especially in writing, to show the order of the points we want to make. When we are making lists, we can use first or firstly. Firstly is more formal than first:

Dear Mr Yates

First(ly) I would like to thank you for your kind offer of a job

Not: At first I would like to thank you

First(ly) the sodium chloride is dissolved in the water and heated gently. Second(ly) a dye is added to the solution.

Not: At first, the sodium chloride

At first

At first means ‘at the beginning’ or ‘in the beginning’ and we use it when we make contrasts:

At first when I went to England to study English, I was homesick, but in the end I cried when it was time to leave.

He called for help. No one heard him at first, but eventually two young girls came to help him.

(“First, firstly or at first ?” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press.)
Add Cambridge dictionaries to your browser to your website
European Union – in or out? The language of the UK’s referendum
European Union – in or out? The language of the UK’s referendum
by ,
June 22, 2016
by Liz Walter On June 23rd, Britain will decide whether or not to remain part of the European Union (EU). I’m more than happy to bore friends with my own views on the subject, but the purpose of this post is simply to highlight the language of the debate. The precise question we will be answering

Read More 

Word of the Day

BFF

abbreviation for best friend forever, a way of referring to a person's best friend

Word of the Day

foodfie noun
foodfie noun
June 20, 2016
informal a photograph of the food that you are eating Foodfie on Instagram

Read More