8

I'm very confused about tenses. I have examples in two different situations here.

Situation 1: I went to New York two months ago and was talking to someone about it.

A. This is the first time I've been to New York.

B. That was the first time I'd been to New York.

Which is correct in a daily conversation?


Situation 2: I'm going to New York next month and talking to someone.

A. This will be the first time I've been to New York.

B. This is the first time I've been to New York.

C. This will be the first time I go to New York.

Which sentence is appropriate?


According to a grammar article I've read before, I think it says that I can use this sentence in both cases:

This is the first time I've been to New York.

But I'm not sure if this is really so. So I'd like to know which tense I should use in each case. Could you explain it?

  • 4
    Situation 1: B; Situation 2: A or C, although C could be modified to This will be the first time I'm going to New York. Also, B is close; This is the first time I'll be going to New York would be acceptable, too. – J.R. Oct 3 '13 at 0:53
  • 1
    Thank you very much for all your answers. This has been bothering me for long, but now everything is very clear. – tennis girl Oct 4 '13 at 9:01
7

In situation 1, which version you select (they're both grammatically correct) depends on the tense in which you're telling the story. If you're telling the story in the present tense ("So I'm walking along the street..."), you would use option A to match, while if you're telling it in the past tense ("So I was walking along the street..."), you'd use option B.

In situation 2, you'll generally want either A or C.

The essence of the grammar article was probably that in English, it's possible to discuss either past events or hypothetical future events in the present tense, as if you were placing yourself in the time and narrating from that perspective. In this case, you'd use the present-tense "first time I've been", but it's much more common to narrate this way when relating past events than when talking about future plans.

  • Thank you for the grammar article's explanation also. I made everything clear. – tennis girl Oct 4 '13 at 9:01
5

Situation 1: You have to say "That was" (choice B) because the event occurred in the past; it already happened. It would not be acceptable to say "this is" (choice A) because the event is not happening at the moment you are speaking. The rest of the sentence ("I'd been") is past perfect (it means "I had been"), which is correct to describe completed action.

Situation 2: Both A and C start with "This will be," so that part is fine for an action that is yet to come (in the future). B starts with "This is," so it would mean the event is happening while you are talking, and that is not correct. As you currently have them written, however, the completions of A and C are not precisely correct. In common speech, both of these tend to be accepted, but I believe that in formal terms, the precisely correct constructions would be either "I will be" or "I will have been." They need to be some future form to be consistent.

The last example you give does not satisfy the necessary conditions for either case, which should now be evident from the above discussion.

  • 1
    For situation 2, I don't think tenses in subordinate clauses in English need to match the tense in the main clause, even in formal writing (at least not when choosing between present and future tenses). If this is a rule, it is not followed very often. Do you have some reference for it actually being a rule? – Peter Shor Oct 3 '13 at 19:47
  • @PeterShor Where do you see subordinate clauses here, Peter? – John M. Landsberg Oct 3 '13 at 21:51
  • 1
    This will be the first time (that) I've been to New York. Here, "(that) I've been to New York" is a subordinate clause. – Peter Shor Oct 4 '13 at 2:33
  • @PeterShor I think it's easy to see that there has to be a linkage here, because I can create nonsense by destroying it (as you imply I could do). For example, I couldn't reasonably say, "This will be the first time I never visited New York." But since I don't know what the heck I'm saying, being no expert, I will bow out. Rather than fumble around and try to answer you with clumsy references and erratically pointing to "rules" and so forth, I'm going to address my next comment to Prof. Lawler, in the hope that he'll take note and be willing to straighten us out on this. – John M. Landsberg Oct 5 '13 at 18:30
  • @JohnLawler Here's hoping this notification reaches you, good sir, and if it does, would you mind looking over what has transpired here, and setting us to rights? Thanks in advance. – John M. Landsberg Oct 5 '13 at 18:42
3

Your question is creating confusion here. I would break the cases as required.

Situation 1: You went to New York. (Past)

Case 1: You are talking to somebody about it in present (say to your friend back at home).

The correct tense would be then:-

That was the first time, I had been to New York.

Case 2: You were talking to somebody about it in past (suppose to a friend in New York).

The correct tense would be then:-

That is the first time, I have been to New York.

Situation 2: You are going to New York in the next month.

You are talking to somebody about it in present.

The correct tense would be then:-

This will be the first time, I will be going to New York.

1

"That was the first time I'd been to New York" in the first situation "This will be the first time I've been to New York" or "This will be the first time I go to New York" but the first sounds better in the second situation.

You can't use "This is the first time I've been to New York" when talking about the future. You can, however use it when talking about the past or present.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.