a first / a second

vladv

Senior Member
Russian-Russia
His early ministry centered on Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee, with visits to Jerusalem and parts of Samaria. During his central ministry he made a first tour of Galilee, visiting Nazareth and other towns. Then followed trips to the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee and a second tour of Galilee villages. A third tour of Galilee also included visits beyond it to Tyre and Sidon, Decapolis, Caesarea, and Philippi.
Shouldn't it be "the first" "the second"
 
  • vladv

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Thanks, still can't get it. The first time is a specific time, hence the definite article. A first time to me would imply that there are many first times. Please comment.
    No, because that would mean the first tour of Galilee and the second tour of Galilee by anyone.

    "A first tour of Galilee" means "the first of the tours of Galilee that he made."
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    But we the reader don't know there were any tours of Galilee by him. One of the primary uses of "a" is to introduce something not known to the reader at that point in the narrative.

    - What is that animal hiding under the car?
    -- It's a cat. (introdution)
    - What color is the cat. (the cat is already known now)
    -- It's gray.

    The narrative is introducing the tours.

    - During his central ministry he made a first tour of Galilee...

    Any further reference can use "the".

    - Who did he make the first tour with?

    The first time is a specific time, hence the definite article. A first time to me would imply that there are many first times.
    Until you introduce it to the reader it's not definite because it does not exist in their knowledge. The implication is there were many tours, not many first tours.

    Both examples would be more idiomatic with "his", I think.

    - During his central ministry he made his first tour of Galilee...
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    The narrative is introducing the tours.
    Yes, that makes sense too. It's like combining two facts into one sentence.

    (1) He made a tour of Galilee. (This is a perfectly ordinary thing to say)
    (2) By the way, this was the first such tour that he made, so there must have been at least one other later.
     

    vladv

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    So I should say I read a first book when I was 7 or Ivanhoe was a first book I had read.
    Yes, that makes sense too. It's like combining two facts into one sentence.

    (1) He made a tour of Galilee. (This is a perfectly ordinary thing to say)
    (2) By the way, this was the first such tour that he made, so there must have been at least one other later.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    No, when you are already restricting the context, the indefinite article doesn't really work.
    Here you want "I read my first book when I was 7" and "Ivanhoe was the first book I read".
     

    vladv

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Thanks . I am rather confused. As I see it when "first" is just additional information we should use "a"? And when the emphasis of the phrase is on first 'the" is used. Please comment.
    I made the first trip to the USA in 1990. I made my trip to the usa, a first one, at age thirty
    No, when you are already restricting the context, the indefinite article doesn't really work.
    Here you want "I read my first book when I was 7" and "Ivanhoe was the first book I read"
     

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    Vladv - you wouldn't be confused by "He made a tour of Galilee", would you? This is the same sentence, but with "first" put in to tell us that it was still a tour of Galilee but happened to be his first.
     

    vladv

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Vladv - you wouldn't be confused by "He made a tour of Galilee", would you? This is the same sentence, but with "first" put in to tell us that it was still a tour of Galilee but happened to be his first.
    thanks. What would change if I said "During his central ministry he made the first tour of Galilee, visiting Nazareth and other towns"
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    thanks. What would change if I said "During his central ministry he made the first tour of Galilee, visiting Nazareth and other towns"
    It doesn't work. "Tour" requires a determiner, but "the" would be used for the first tour of Galilee made by anyone, which is unlikely to be the case. The obvious alternative to "a" is "his". "The first tour of Galilee that he made" is grammatical and conveys the right meaning, but would be very awkward with "made" being repeated.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    The problem is that "the first tour of Galilee" means the first tour that has ever been made of Galilee, not just by him.
    But when you say "Ivanhoe is the first book (that) I read", this does not mean the first book that anyone has ever read, because "book" is already modified by "that I read". There are many books that I have read, and the first of those was Ivanhoe.
     

    vladv

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Thanks. Does this rule work only with geographical names? When he was 19 he made a first trip to the USA is correct?
    The problem is that "the first tour of Galilee" means the first tour that has ever been made of Galilee, not just by him.
    But when you say "Ivanhoe is the first book (that) I read", this does not mean the first book that anyone has ever read, because "book" is already modified by "that I read". There are many books that I have read, and the first of those was Ivanhoe
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Thanks. Does this rule work only with geographical names? When he was 19 he made a first trip to the USA is correct?
    Geographic names are not the deciding factor. Yes, this example is correct, but I'd say that "his first trip" would work better, and indeed in the original Jesus sentence, "his first tour of Galilee" would also probably have been better.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    What would change if I said "During his central ministry he made the first tour of Galilee, visiting Nazareth and other towns"
    It wouldn't make sense. Again, we don't know he made any tours of Galilee. The idea that he made tours needs introducing.

    The OP version introduces it using "a". Another way is to introduce it in the same sentence that uses "the" so "the" now has a direct explanation.

    "During his central ministry he made the first of a total of four tours of Galilee, visiting Nazareth and other towns."

    Now you have told the reader that he made tours of Galilee. You have told them he made four. So now when you say "the first" it makes sense. They know about the tours and they know there were more than one.

    You can think of the sentence above as a rearrangement of:

    "He made a total of four tours of Galilee, and in the first one, made during his central ministry, he visited Nazareth and other towns."

    It is okay to move "the first" before the introduction of the idea there were tours, because by the end of the sentence everything is explained.
     
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    vladv

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Today, we don't have to waste time with liars, cheats, and brands that treat us badly.Before we say yes to a first date, we pop online, ask around, and get the scoop. Modern girls have a rich network of spies to tell us who you really are…or aren't.
    Open the source (@businessweek.com) .
    It correct? Why not "the" first? Thanks. And besides what is the difference between waste time with liars and waste time on liars
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    The first date would be the first date we ever go on., like if we've never been on a date before.
    A first date is the first date we go on with a particular person.

    Your with/on question needs a separate thread.
     

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    You could say "the first date", and you could say "waste time with" or "waste time on" - only tiny differences in both cases.
     

    vladv

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    The first date would be the first date we ever go on., like if we've never been on a date before.
    A first date is the first date we go on with a particular person.

    Your with/on question needs a separate thread.
    Still can't fully get the nuance with a first tour of Galilee. Could you PLEASE provide the examples where a first should be used instead of the first. Thank you all for the patience.
     

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    "I had a first whisky as soon as I arrived, a second when George joined me, and now you're offering me a third. I've got to get myself home tonight."
    "A first experience of love is always awkward and difficult; by the time you get round to a second, things are usually much more relaxed."
     

    vladv

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    "I had a first whisky as soon as I arrived, a second when George joined me, and now you're offering me a third. I've got to get myself home tonight."
    "A first experience of love is always awkward and difficult; by the time you get round to a second, things are usually much more relaxed."
    Thanks four you kindness. a first whisky is used because it was not obviously THE first in the writer's life?. As for a first experience of love-does it mean the first experience with a particular person and it is implied that it is not the first in one's life?
     

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes, you've got it right about the whisky. By "a first experience of love" I meant the first in someone's life.
     

    vladv

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Thanks! Why not say the first experience of love?
    Then the audience of a cage-fighting match in Moscow greeted him with booing and jeers. This was a first in Putin's political career, and it seemed to leave him shaken. Why a first? still can't undertstand.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thanks! Why not say the first experience of love?
    For a similar reason to Jesus making a first tour of Galilee, that "the", in general, means by anyone.

    Although there is nothing wrong with "a"/"an", in most of the examples in this thread, I think most people would use a pronoun instead, in most situations. Jesus made his first tour of Galilee. I made my first trip to the USA. I had my first whisky as soon as I arrived. One's first experience of love is always awkward and difficult (although we have a reluctance to use "one's" like this in modern English).

    "A first date" is different, because this is considered as something different from an ordinary date, and you might think of "first date" as a compound noun.
    Then the audience of a cage-fighting match in Moscow greeted him with booing and jeers. This was a first in Putin's political career, and it seemed to leave him shaken. Why a first? still can't undertstand.
    If you use "the first", you need a noun ("first" is only a noun by proxy). The first what? "A first" means a first occurrence (of whatever is being talked about).
     

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    The difference between "A first" and "The first" is exactly like the difference between "a" and "the". In English, "a" is called the indefinite article, and "the" is the definite article. "A first experience. . . " is indefinite - any first experience. "The first experience is definite - it makes us want to ask "When? After you arrived in Paris? After your operation? Which first experience?"
     

    vladv

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    For a similar reason to Jesus making a first tour of Galilee, that "the", in general, means by anyone.
    For a similar reason to Jesus making a first tour of Galilee, that "the", in general, means by anyone.

    Although there is nothing wrong with "a"/"an", in most of the examples in this thread, I think most people would use a pronoun instead, in most situations. Jesus made his first tour of Galilee. I made my first trip to the USA. I had my first whisky as soon as I arrived. One's first experience of love is always awkward and difficult (although we have a reluctance to use "one's" like this in modern English).

    "A first date" is different, because this is considered as something different from an ordinary date, and you might think of "first date" as a compound noun.

    If you use "the first", you need a noun ("first" is only a noun by proxy). The first what? "A first" means a first occurrence (of whatever is being talked about).

    Although there is nothing wrong with "a"/"an", in most of the examples in this thread, I think most people would use a pronoun instead, in most situations. Jesus made his first tour of Galilee. I made my first trip to the USA. I had my first whisky as soon as I arrived. One's first experience of love is always awkward and difficult (although we have a reluctance to use "one's" like this in modern English).

    "A first date" is different, because this is considered as something different from an ordinary date, and you might think of "first date" as a compound noun.

    If you use "the first", you need a noun ("first" is only a noun by proxy). The first what? "A first" means a first occurrence (of whatever is being talked about).
    Thanks. What do you mean by anyone? A first experience of love is always awkward and difficult; by the time you get round to a second, things are usually much more relaxed. Is not the author speaking about "Anyones' experience? What do you mean by anyone, explain please. Thanks
     

    vladv

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Sorry for being importunate. I have been incorrectly taught that the first plus noun is always "THE" first
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thanks. What do you mean by anyone? A first experience of love is always awkward and difficult; by the time you get round to a second, things are usually much more relaxed. Is not the author speaking about "Anyones' experience? What do you mean by anyone, explain please. Thanks
    What I meant by "by anyone" is the first in absolute terms, the first experience by anyone, ever. However, this isn't strictly true, and it only applies where there isn't context to tie it to something previously mentioned.

    Having said that, I think that even if the scope of the noun is clear, "the" does not work because it would suggest that there is one single first experience of love that everyone goes through. "A first experience of love" allows everyone's experience to be different, and means the same thing as "a person's first experience of love".
     
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