Learn English Vocabulary – The First Time

MichaelADConversational Phrases, Grammar 12 Comments


When you want to talk about your first experience to do something, there are a few ways in English you can do that. The easiest and clearest way is to use “for the first time” at the end of your sentence. This pattern works for the present, past, and future, and you don’t need to change the pattern when the tense changes:

  • Present tense: Jack is working here in the USA for the first time.
  • Past tense: I ate pizza in New York today for the first time.
  • Future tense: I am going to Peru next month for the first time.

You can also use the following pattern: [subject] + be + the first time + sentence. Usually the [subject] is a time word, like today or now, or a pronoun like this or that. This pattern also works for the present, past, and future, but you do need to change the pattern when the tense changes, so be careful!:

  • Present tense: This is the first time Jack is working here in the USA.
  • Past tense: Today was the first time I ate pizza in New York
  • Future tense: Next month is going to be the first time I am going to Peru.

When was the first time you found Happy English? Feel free to leave a comment below!
Keep in mind the best way to remember this or any vocabulary in English is to take the word or phrase write it in a sentence that’s true for you or true in your world and then memorize your sentences.

You can even take your sentences and write them in the comments below. I would love to see your examples. And if you really want help with vocabulary, sign up for my free vocabulary workshop (see below).

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Comments 12

  1. Hello Michael,

    I don’t think we can use ‘this is the first time I am eating pizza in New York’, in English English. It sounds like a foreigner speaking English. In UK English, we would have to use the Present Perfect, even if you were in the act of eating pizza, because the first time is now in the past as you are speaking. So we’d say, as we put another piece of pizza in our mouths, ‘This is the first time I’VE EATEN PIZZA in New York. We CAN use ‘the first time’ with present continuous, but we have to change the order of the sentence. If we say ‘I’m eating pizza in New York for the first time’ we understand that the action is happening right now and the first time experience is also happening at the same time. But I think that a native English speaker would use the Present Perfect. Perhaps it’s different in American English but I wouldn’t teach that.

    1. Hi Lucy. If I am at the restaurant, at the moment of eating the pizza, I could say,” This is the first time I am eating pizza in New York.” Perhaps it is one of the differences between American English and British English. That said, Thanks for your input. I do appreciate you letting us know that 🙂

    2. I agree Lucy. We need the present perfect. This is the first time I’ve eaten pizza (up until now/never before have I done such a thing). This is the use of the present perfect we should be highlighting! Great thread!

      1. Post

        Thanks for your input. “This is the first time I’ve eaten pizza” means “in my life” or “since my birth.”
        Note that in American English, it’s perfectly acceptable to use a sentence like, “This is the first time I’m eating pizza” during that meal.

  2. Hi! Here goes my question ! Don`t we have to use present perfect when we talk about first times? Or I am getting confused with another phrase that is always used in the present perfect,like “It is the first time I have…” ?

    Looking forward your answer =)

  3. Hello Michael , I really thank you sir for your wonderful efforts , you are trying to help out everyone who likes English & desires to learn it. A thank word won’t ever be enough Sir !
    You are such a nice person so I feel so proud meeting you & following you as well <3
    My best wishes for you & for your great family.

  4. Using the past tense gives the indication that it already happened. It was today, but it is finished. So the person might be speaking at 6pm about what he ate at lunch. If you use the present tense “This is the first time I am eating pizza in New York”, you need to use continuous tense for a current action, and it means it’s happening *right now* (like you’re talking on the phone to someone who doesn’t know what you’re doing.) You can also use future tense for the current day.. “Today I will eat pizza in NY for the first time!”, you might say when you wake up in the morning and plan your day in the big city. Clear? 🙂

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