9

I would like to ask about the difference between the two phrases starting with and starting from.

Take the following two sentences for example:

  1. Please give me all the names starting with A.
  2. Please give me all the names starting from A.

I can gather that starting from means that I am interested in finding out all the names, but I have requested the listener to start listing names that begin with the letter A.

Starting with means that I am only interested in names that start with the letter A, such as Anthony, Alice, etc.

The problem arises with sentences such as:

Let's start cutting back on our expenses, starting with/from the money we spend on food.

Does a change in the phrase starting with to starting from make a difference in this case?

  • Thank you for pointing out my mistake! The question has been amended. – Traac May 1 '13 at 21:55
8

Please give me all the names starting with A.

Starting with A includes only words that start with the letter A.

  • Adam
  • Alfred

Please give me all the names starting from A.

Starting from A gives you all the words that start with A and all the words that start with the letters after A.

  • Adam
  • Chris
  • John

Your wording makes the difference less clear. For example I think the following is clearer.

Please give me all the names starting with the letter C.

Please give me all the names starting from the letter C.

When there is no known ordering, they mean the same thing so with/from can be used interchangeably in the following example.

Let's start cutting back on our expenses, starting with/from the money we spend on food.

So I'm of the opinion they can be used interchangeably if there is no order to what is being started with/from, though with is more correct in my opinion. When order matters, starting from includes all items starting with and coming after.

  • I like the exposition of the names starting with/from. On the last point, I personally find it very awkward to say starting from the money we spend on food, to the point that I'm almost inclined to call it an error. – John Y May 1 '13 at 22:29
  • I agree and personally thing it should always be starting with unless there is order such as in the name examples. I was unable to find anything to back that up though other than what felt right when I said it aloud. – ClassicThunder May 1 '13 at 22:42
2

OP's first sentence (#1) can mean either...

A: List all names that start with with the letter A (but don't list any other names)
B: List all names (but begin with those that start with with the letter A

...but OP's second sentence (#2) can only mean B above.


In the above, it's implicit that a notional "list" already exists, arranged in some natural sequence (probably, alphabetical), so it makes sense to start "reading out" that list from a specified point. Note that this is a "metaphoric" usage based on the spatial/directional connotations of from the beginning to the end.

But in OP's final sentence, it's unlikely any list exists at all (and even if it did, there's no obvious sequence). Idiomatically, unless there's some reason we wish to emphasise the starting point (and subsequent sequence), we start with the first item.

  • Isn't a comma needed to refer to the verb, as in the second example (expenses). This is related to another question. You might say the subordinate phrase is a restrictive relative clause. I claim it's just a participle phrase and I am not sure of the difference. A participle refers to the preceding noun, otherwise a comma should be used if it refers to the whole sentence, and if it refers to a different noun it should be placed there?. – vectorious Apr 6 '17 at 19:37

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