Consider the sentence:

We've been friends at/from the outset.

Which preposition is used?

  • 2
    It depends on what you're trying to say. Are you still friends? Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 19:44
  • @michael.hor257k Yes.
    – Schwale
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 19:44
  • 3
    Then use from. Otherwise you're implying you've been friends at the beginning, but stopped being friends at some later time. Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 19:50
  • @michael.hor257k since the action shows no present relevance, shouldn't I change the tense? Say, We were friends at the outset?
    – Schwale
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 19:52
  • 4
    "We've been friends from the outset" is fine in both grammar and logic. "We've been friends at the outset" is nonsense in grammar and problematic in logic. It could be that that you wanted to say "We were friends at the outset" and is that so? Is that what you meant? Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 21:27

3 Answers 3


Collins does make a distinction between the two prepositions, and your intuition is right:

If something happens at the outset of an event, process, or period of time, it happens at the beginning of it. If something happens from the outset it happens from the beginning and continues to happen.

  • Decide at the outset what kind of learning programme you want to follow.
  • From the outset he had put his trust in me, the son of his old friend.

Note the perfect tense with from the outset. Here is an example with at the outset from Dict.com which is closer to your sentence:

  • At the outset the problem seemed simple, but then it became quite complicated.

With past events, at refers to a completed, finished state or action, so it makes no sense to prolong it to the present by using present perfect. From the outset fits well in your sentence.


Use since. We use the present perfect progressive tense (e.g. 'have been') to describe an action that began in the past, continues in the present, and may continue into the future. We use 'since' to discuss the duration of something that has continued from a definite past time and until now. I have been a socialist since I was a teenager. He has been sick since last Tuesday.

Verb tenses


  • I thought my answer was sufficiently clear for this site. I'll vote to move it to ELL. Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 20:03
  • It seems that the OP wants to know whether to use at or from before 'the outset'. Not sure if he is referring to the tense part.
    – Ram Pillai
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 5:57

We've been friends at/from the outset.

Interesting: TFD 2 idioms (Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary)

at the outset, also, from the outset.

at/from the beginning of something; at/from the start

The reference states that the noun outset is rarely heard today except in these [2] phrases.

As in:

He wanted to explain his position from the outset.


At the outset the problem seemed simple, but then it became quite complicated.

It appears you can use either.

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