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  1. Senior Member
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    #1

    at first = when making lists?

    Hi,

    According to the dictionaries such as Cambridge, ''At first means ‘at the beginning’ or ‘in the beginning’ and we use it when we make contrasts'' and ''first/firstly when we are making lists.''

    The source: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/g...ly-or-at-first

    However, in the play 'As you Like it', Shakespeare used at first to make lists:

    ... And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages.
    At first, the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
    Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school.
    And then the lover,...

    The source: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/...l-worlds-stage

    Why not 'fist(ly)'? I feel very confused.

    Thanks.

  2. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #2

    Re: at first = when making lists?

    Does Shakespeare always do this with lists? Is he using it to indicate the first item in a list? I think the use of then/and then shows that he is thinking of it more as a process over time marked by stages than a simple list as he only uses one number in the rest of the list. Furthermore, the rules of English today are different from his time, so don't worry about an example, and one in poetry, from a few hundred years ago. Shakespeare plays fast and loose with many grammar rules- he famously uses between you and I, which many people hate.

  3. Raymott's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: at first = when making lists?

    Of course, these are the words of his characters. He has written the dialogue as he wishes them to speak it.

  4. VIP Member
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    #4

    Re: at first = when making lists?

    Don't rely on Shakespeare for examples of modern English usage, and don't expect him to follow today's rules.
    I am not a teacher.

  5. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #5

    Re: at first = when making lists?

    Or even the rules of his own time.

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    #6

    Re: at first = when making lists?

    Nobody having presumed to write rules of English usage when he was writing, Shakespeare was free to write what felt right at the moment.
    I am not a teacher.

  7. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #7

    Re: at first = when making lists?

    Grammarians were already kicking off in his day, but playing to an empty house.

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