'in the first place' instead of 'firstly'



I wonder that if I start introducing some things at first, Should I start with 'in the first place' rather than 'firstly'?

For example:

In the first place, I would like to introduce .....

Does this form fit in the sentence?


Posted 2014-04-02T22:21:33.183

Reputation: 1 233

2Good question. Perhaps someone else will be able to explain why, but whereas idiomatically *in the first place* and *firstly* can be used interchangeably before the first of a series of arguments, examples, etc., we don't have that same flexibility when actually introducing people. So if you really feel the need to say anything at all before "I would like to introduce [our first guest speaker]", it has to be *firstly*. But I really wouldn't bother, since it's blindingly obvious he's the first, and any connection to a following *secondly* would probably come too late. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-04-02T22:40:40.900


...also note that Some {American?} people object to firstly, secondly etc.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-04-02T22:43:40.887

1@FumbleFingers Moi, I just write or say "First: ... Second: ... Third: ...". None of these effete johnny-come-lately adverbializers for me. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2014-04-02T23:06:25.893

I'd go with first of all, then second, third, etc. – Alicja Z – 2014-04-02T23:13:50.027

1@StoneyB: Firstly, I did accurately transcribe (American) from that previous ELU answer. Secondly, life would be boring if we all agreed on everything. But thirdly, despite the fact that I could just about tolerate "fourthly", even I would balk at *fifthly* (and quite frankly, *sixthly* is a non-starter! :). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-04-02T23:15:05.433

1@FumbleFingers What I say under three heads is true. Everything after that is footnotes. Incidentally, while it shows up in the 16th century, OED quotes De Quincey as writing, in 1847, “First (for I detest your ridiculous and most pedantic neologism of firstly)...” So it's not just us Yanks. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2014-04-03T00:47:21.917

@StoneyB: De Quincey was clearly on the wrong side of history so far as I'm concerned. Coincidentally, current AmE prevalence for firstly is about the same as BrE prevalence in the 1840s. Current BrE prevalence is about five times higher, and the long-term trend still seems to be upward. It's certainly a perfectly natural usage for me, and until recently I'd no idea anyone might have a problem with it.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-04-03T13:59:59.623

@FumbleFingers Oh, I don't have a problem with it; I just see no need for it. In other contexts we use first, second, &c adverbially: John arrived third, after Cathy and Norman; why a distinct form for sentential modifiers? – StoneyB on hiatus – 2014-04-03T14:05:28.223

@StoneyB: It's a fine point, and I'm sure I'm not 100% consistent in my own usage, but when I'm introducing the first item, *and intending to "enumerate" another one or two more*, I tend to use *firstly*. If I'm not intending to explicitly identify anything after the first, I might use *first*, but I'm more likely to say something like *to start with*. Effectively, first to me means before I do or say anything else, whereas firstly means here comes the first of a series of two or three items, the other one or two of which will be positionally identified in due course. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-04-03T14:56:48.557



If you're starting a list, either first or firstly will work, but I'd go with just first: the adverbial -ly ending doesn't contribute anything to the meaning, and it sounds awkward. As the word origin note at Dictionary.com puts it:

1530s, but never a common word (simple first usually serving its place)

"In the first place" is a different matter entirely. Some dictionaries list it as a synonym/definition of first or firstly, but I believe that in most modern usage, this is incorrect. Nowadays, this phrase is an idiom that means either "before now" or "of primary import". In the latter meaning, it can be used to introduce a list, but only if the things in the list are arranged in order of how crucial they are to the subject under discussion. I wouldn't suggest using it to start off an introduction.

You might be confusing "in the first place" with the similar-sounding "first of all". Unlike the former, the latter can be used when you're introducing someone. It means pretty much the same thing as first, but it places slightly more emphasis on the timing — that this is what you're doing before doing anything else — rather than the sequence. To put it another way, if you start your introductions with first, then most people will expect you to introduce at least one other person. However, if you start with first of all, there don't need to be any further introductions — the next item on your list might be something else entirely.

First, let me introduce Susan. Susan is a web developer who just joined us last week. Second, some of you haven't met John yet. He started with us about a month ago.

First of all, let me introduce Susan, our new web developer. I hope you will all make her feel welcome. After that, we need to come up with a decision on the Whitehall project, so put your thinking caps on.

Note: Whichever word (or phrase) you use to introduce your first item, make sure your subsequent items parallel it. So "first" goes with "second", "third", etc., but "firstly" goes with "secondly", "thirdly", etc., and "in the first place" goes with "in the second place", "in the third place", etc. The exception is that "first" (or "first of all") can also go with "next".


Posted 2014-04-02T22:21:33.183

Reputation: 5 164


Well, WorldWeb describes this adverb:

in the first place- before now.; *of primary import.*


firstly- before anything else

That's what the dictionary says. I agree. But I also agree that both can begin whatever we are beginning (a lecture, speech, presentation or the like).

Now the nuance I see -

When you add place, it emphasizes on the stage/priority of something. On the other hand, if you use firstly, as the dictionary says, it's before anything else (and hence seems more common and frequently used).

Let me think of two examples:

In the first place, I'd like to thank the VIPs who spared their precious time to attend this function. - This gives importance to that thanks to the VIPs and keep them at first place -for thanking considering themselves as the supreme guests.


Firstly, I'd like to tell you about my organization before beginning the conduction program. - Before anything I proceed, I'd first introduce ....

Though they are interchangeable, if you think of first place in second example, it won't sound as smooth as the word 'firstly.'

Though they are quite interchangeable but it helps us understanding better if we ask ourselves - *Whatever I'm telling, is it the first thing to tell or adding 'place' will make that sentence effective? Is it about the position of priority? Is it about something to be told before anything or about giving someone/thing the priority in position.

Maulik V

Posted 2014-04-02T22:21:33.183

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