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@zonzon posted:

That was the first time......U.S.
( to visit/ to have visited / have visited/visiting)

Hi, Zonzon—None of them works. You need a possessive pronoun instead of "the." Then you can use the -ing form "visiting":

  • That was my first time visiting the U.S.
  • That was his first time visiting the U.S.
  • That was their first time visiting the U.S.
  • That was our first time visiting the U.S.

No, Ahmed. You could say:

- It was my first time to visit the U.S.

or

- It was the first time I'd visited the U.S.

(GE reference)

I think that while the sentence with the infinitive focuses on the idea of the action being performed for the first time, the sentence with V-ing (It was my first time visiting the U.S.) is descriptive of the experience (my first experience doing that).

Hi,

No, Ahmed. You could say:

- It was my first time to visit the U.S.

or

- It was the first time I'd visited the U.S.

(GE reference)

I think that while the sentence with the infinitive focuses on the idea of the action being performed for the first time, the sentence with V-ing (It was my first time visiting the U.S.) is descriptive of the experience (my first experience doing that).

I completely agree with David and Gustavo. I just want to concentrate on the reason why Zonzon's sentence is ungrammatical. The answer is provided by late Marilyn:

4. This is the first time to taste soy sauce.

Not clear. Who is tasting soy sauce?

I, also, find the writer's opinion on the link below very interesting. He objects to using 'to + inf.' after a possessive pronoun, though it might be accepted by some native speakers, as he claimed.

https://poligo.com/en/articles...r-first-time-meeting

Hello, everybody—What an interesting discussion. I was surprised to find that my predecessors Marilyn and Rachel both endorsed the construction exemplified by "It was my first time to visit the U.S.," which, to me, though perfectly understandable, does not really work from a grammatical standpoint.

I do not claim that it is ungrammatical. How could I when two of my predecessors endorsed it? Moreover, the construction is occasionally found, even on COCA. But I wonder if Rachel or Marilyn ever used the construction or heard it used by other native speakers. To my knowledge, I myself have not.

When looking online for the questionable construction, it is important not to count those results in which "to" is the head of a prepositional phrase (e.g., "It was my first time to the U.S.") and those in which the "my first time" is a raised object (e.g., "I want my first time to be special").

When I inspected the 77 results for "my first time to" on COCA, I was able to eliminate 20 results because they were instances of the two irrelevant constructions discussed in my last paragraph. That brought the results down to only 57. It is impossible to know how many of those results are native.

I started checking the 15 pages of COCA results for "my first time" but decided that I had better things to do. I did make it through the first 3 pages, though, and discovered that there were about 200 relevant results for "my first time V-ing" and only 12 relevant results for "my first time to VP."

Interestingly, when we use "the" instead of a possessive pronoun and change "first/second/etc" to "best," the construction becomes perfectly correct and natural—e.g.: "The best time to visit the U.S. is when there is no risk of becoming infected with a deadly virus."

As for the correctness of, e.g., "the first man to walk on the moon," the blog Ahmed_btm linked to is correct to point out that, in such phrases, the noun modified by "first" is the subject of the infinitival. The man walks on the moon. A time or an occasion, by contrast, cannot walk on the moon.

With all due respect to my predecessors, what I personally reject is this:

  • That was Neil Armstrong's first time to walk on the moon.
  • That was the first time to walk on the moon.
  • That was the first time for Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon.
  • Correct: That was Neil Armstrong's first time walking on the moon.
Last edited by David, Moderator

When looking online for the questionable construction, it is important not to count those results in which "to" is the head of a prepositional phrase (e.g., "It was my first time to the U.S.") and those in which the "my first time" is a raised object (e.g., "I want my first time to be special").

When I inspected the 77 results for "my first time to" on COCA, I was able to eliminate 20 results because they were instances of the two irrelevant constructions discussed in my last paragraph. That brought the results down to only 57.

Thank you, David, for taking the time to do that. It was lazy of me not to take a closer look at those results.

Interestingly, when we use "the" instead of a possessive pronoun and change "first/second/etc" to "best," the construction becomes perfectly correct and natural—e.g.: "The best time to visit the U.S. is when there is no risk of becoming infected with a deadly virus."

I understand the construction above to be one of purpose:

- To visit the U.S., the best time is when there is no risk of becoming infected with a deadly virus.

I find that there are similar constructions even with a possessive determiner:

My favorite time of day to study is at night. (To study — for the purpose of studying — my favorite time of day is at night.)

(We should of course leave out apparently similar constructions where the noun can be, apart from the subject, the object of the infinitive: The best book to read is one of philosophy, My favorite grammar forum to visit is GE, etc.)

Getting back to what I explained somewhat vaguely in a post further above:

I think that while the sentence with the infinitive focuses on the idea of the action being performed for the first time, the sentence with V-ing (It was my first time visiting the U.S.) is descriptive of the experience (my first experience doing that).

I am under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that there is an aspectual/temporal difference between the infinitive and the V-ing. While, to me, the infinitive carries the connotation of purpose or immediate future, the -ing form carries a progressive meaning. Thus, I'd feel tempted to say:

- This is my first time to visit the U.S.

upon my arrival in the U.S.

and:

- This is my first time visiting the U.S.

during the course of my visit.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor

Interestingly, when we use "the" instead of a possessive pronoun and change "first/second/etc" to "best," the construction becomes perfectly correct and natural—e.g.: "The best time to visit the U.S. is when there is no risk of becoming infected with a deadly virus."

I understand the construction above to be one of purpose:

- To visit the U.S., the best time is when there is no risk of becoming infected with a deadly virus.

I find that there are similar constructions even with a possessive determiner:

My favorite time of day to study is at night. (To study — for the purpose of studying — my favorite time of day is at night.)

That's an interesting way of looking at those types of constructions, Gustavo. I tend to view the infinitival clause as modifying the noun rather than as being outside the noun phrase. On this view, "the best time to visit the U.S." is comparable to "the best time for visiting the U.S.," and "my favorite time of day to study" to "my favorite time of day for studying." Of course, it is still possible to place the modifier at the front of the sentence: "For visiting the U.S., the best time is . . ."; "For studying, my favorite time of day is . . ."

I am under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that there is an aspectual/temporal difference between the infinitive and the V-ing. While, to me, the infinitive carries the connotation of purpose or immediate future, the -ing form carries a progressive meaning. Thus, I'd feel tempted to say:

- This is my first time to visit the U.S.

upon my arrival in the U.S.

and:

- This is my first time visiting the U.S.

during the course of my visit.

I would use "my first time visiting" in both of those cases. I have great difficulty conceiving of any circumstances in which it would not sound wrong to me to say "This is my first time to visit X / to eat Y / to jump out of Z / etc.," despite the fact that the construction sometimes occurs in the wild, like a persistent weed.

In almost all the cases I can think of, I GREATLY prefer "This is my first time visiting X / eating Y / jumping out of Z / etc.," whether just prior to or during the action referred to. So I can't say that I share the same sense of temporal/aspectual difference in this construction.

There is one circumstance I thought of in which I MIGHT (very distant "might") use the infinitival construction. It is when two actions are being spoken of in conjunction such that the action referred to in the second verb phrase is understood to take place when the action in the first verb phrase does:

(1) This is my first time to land in India and have my luggage searched.

I think that I would prefer that to "This is my first time landing in India and having my luggage searched." In the latter sentence, the two coordinated verb phrases seem to be referring to two separate things rather than to one action occurring at the time another does. Still, I'd probably use one of these instead of (1):

(2) This is my first time having my luggage searched when landing in India.
(3) This is the first time I've had my luggage searched when landing in India.

In trying to account for what makes (1) special, it occurred to me that it could be rephrased like this:

(1a) This is a first for me, to land in India and have my luggage searched.

In that paraphrase, the noun "time" does not appear. "A first" is a special use of "first" as a noun. We only use the construction with the first few ordinal numerals, mainly "first." Occasionally, however, we speak of "a close second" or "a third."

Analyzing the syntax, I think that we are not dealing with a nonfinite relative clause in phrases like "my first time visiting the U.S.," but that we are dealing with a nonfinite relative clause in phrases like "the best time to visit the U.S."—for in the latter a relative adverbial can be added as connective tissue:

(4a) This is the best time during which to visit the U.S.
(4b) This is the best time at which to visit the U.S.

Notice that this does not work AT ALL in the questionable "my first time" variant:

(5a) *This is my first time during which to visit the U.S.
(5b) *This is my first time at which to visit the U.S.

Last edited by David, Moderator

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