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To really be happy, you need to understand what makes you happy in the first place.

I doubt if in the first place in the above is interchangeable with in the beginning/at first/first. Your advice? Thanks.
Comments  
Hi Angliholic

You could replace 'in the first place' with 'first' in that sentence.
YankeeYou could replace 'in the first place' with 'first' in that sentence.
Yes, but then I'd change the order:

To really be happy, you need first to understand what makes you happy.
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Marius HancuYes, but then I'd change the order:
I'd leave the word order exactly the same.
Thanks, Yankee and Marius, for your helpful replies.

By the way, could you explain in a few words why the other two don't do the trick because I'm still in doubt?
Hi Angliholic

The phrase "at first" is generally used when you talk about two different or opposite things. The context often refers to an initial impression, belief or fact and then to a subsequent or final one -- one which is opposite or quite different from the first:

At first I thought my answer was correct, but now I know it was wrong.
He ran well at first, but by the end of the race, he was limping. He ended up in last place.

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Otherwise:

at first: in the beginning

BTW, the first version here may be more correct than the 2nd:

To really be happy, you first need to understand what makes you happy.

To really be happy, you need first to understand what makes you happy.
Thanks, Amy, for the helpful reply.

Now I can tell at first and first apart, but I'm still bothered by in the beginning--why doesn't it do the job?