When using the transition "above all", is it acceptable to have only one item before the transition? Or can it only be used when comparing the information after the transition to two or more pieces of information?

For example, is this the only correct usage?

(A) is important. {explains why} (B) is important as well. {explains why} Above all, (C) is important.

Or is this acceptable as well?

(A) is important. {explains why} Above all, (B) is important

I was wondering because I wasn't sure about an question in a reading comprehension workbook.

Instruction: Put items (B), (C), and (D) in the correct order after item (A).


(A)Some people seem to have a knack for learning languages. They can pick up new vocabulary,master roles of grammar,and learn to write in the new language more quickly than others. They do not seem to be any cleverer than others,so what makes language learning so much easier for them? Perhaps if we take a close look at these successful language learners,we may discover a few of the techniques which make language learning easier for them.

(B)Therefore,successful learners do not wait for a chance to use the language;they look for such a chance. They find people who speak the language and they ask these people to correct them when they make a mistake. They will try anything to communicate. They are not afraid to repeat what they hear or to say strange things;they are willing to make mistakes and try again. When communication is difficult,they can accept information that is inexact or incomplete. It is more important for them to learn to think in the language than to know the meaning of every word.

(C)First of all,successful language learners are independent learners. They do not depend on the book or the teacher;they discover their own way to learn the language. Instead of waiting for the teacher to explain,they try to find the patterns and the rules for themselves. They are good guessers who look for clues and form their own conclusions. When they guess wrong,they guess again. They try to learn form their mistakes. Successful language learning is active learning.   

(D)Above all, successful language learners are learners with a purpose. They want to learn the language because they are interested in the language and the people who speak it. It is necessary for them to learn the language in order to communicate with these people and to learn from them. They find it easy to practice using the language regularly because they want to learn with it.

The correct answer is (C)(B)(D), but I was wondering if (C)(D)(B) could work as well.

  • Jim is healthy. Above all, he's rich. No, it sounds kind of weird with only one thing before the above all. However, above all else doesn't sound that weird, or at least as weird, probably because it includes unnamed items. That's how I connote them. Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 9:20
  • Annie, how is above all a transition, please? Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 22:29

1 Answer 1


Yes, it's acceptable, but please understand the context of the phrase.

(A) is important, but above all, (B).

suggests there is more to be considered than just (A) and (B). The phrase would make perfect sense if (for example) a conversation enumerated or suggested a longer list.

"I like her hair," said Danny.

"And I like her eyes, but above all, I like her smile!" said John.

Or, more implicitly...

"There are a lot of problems with this car," said Larry.

"Mmm...," mumbled Jeff, "Like the radiator, but above all, the transmission."

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