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General Writing and Grammar Help/use of the phrase: "first of all"

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Question
Dear Ted,

Can you please explain why the phrase “first of all” is classified as an adverb.

Example:  “First of all, it is important to be careful.”
I am thinking that -  “first of all” modifies the verb “is”.  

Can a phrase such as “first of all” (that does not start with a preposition) be used as an adverbial phrase?   

Is there a grammatical name for such a phrase?

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:

Can you please explain why the phrase “first of all” is classified as an adverb.

Example:  “First of all, it is important to be careful.”
I am thinking that -  “first of all” modifies the verb “is”.  

*** It is considered an adverb, because it introduces a "list" or "series" of things.  Because it is time-related, it tells WHEN.

Can a phrase such as “first of all” (that does not start with a preposition) be
used as an adverbial phrase?   

*** Yes, when you have ONE word that functions as an adverb, it is just an "adverb."  Two or more words that function as adverbs are "adverbial phrases."

Is there a grammatical name for such a phrase?

*** The phrases are called "discourse connectors."  I'll wager that 9 out of 10 English majors have never heard the term.  Its as obscure as those "tags" we spoke about last week.

I hope you can open this very long link.  If it doesn't work, try a search of "first of all" "grammar" "google books."

http://books.google.com/books?id=WCCk829jmzUC&pg=PA616&lpg=PA616&dq=first+of+all

This page contains a "chart."  The document is a "pdf," and you must have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer.

http://www.alaws2006.com/vb/uploaded/15996_1238338536.pdf


I found this definition at another site -- which I didn't note and should have.

adv
1.   before anything else in order, time, preference, importance, etc: do this first, first, remove the head and tail of the fish
2.   first and last ⇒ on the whole; overall
3.   from first to last ⇒ throughout
4.   for the first time: I've loved you since I first saw you
5.   (sentence modifier) in the first place or beginning of a series of actions: first I want to talk about criminality

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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