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Suppose Robin buys an ice cream at 5 p.m. and Harry buys another same ice cream at 5:08 p.m (8 minutes later than Robin buys). Robin finishes eating his ice cream at 5:15 p.m and Harry finishes eating his ice cream at 5:20 p.m.

Robin actually finishes eating his ice cream in 15 minutes and Harry in 12 minutes.

If I want to refer who finishes first, then it is Robin.

But if I want to refer who eats in a shorter time, then it is Harry.

What is the appropriate word to refer who finishes first?

What is the appropriate word to refer who eats in a shorter time?

If I say "fastest", will it refer to who eats first or who eats in a shorter time?

3

There are various methods, but here is one each.

  1. Robin finished his ice cream before Harry.
  2. Harry ate his ice cream quicker than Robin.

The word fastest would refer to who ate it quicker. It refers to duration of eating, not start times. Both "fast" and "quick" would be expressed as rates, bytes/minute in this case.

  1. Harry ate his ice cream the fastest.
  • Can't I use "ate" for both sentences. 1. Robin ate his ice cream before harry. 2. Harry ate his ice cream quicker than Robin. – user3099298 Feb 7 '17 at 4:23
  • Say, there are ten people and I want to consider starting time, not duration time. I want to say "ith person finishes before any other" more concisely. If I were to consider the duration time, I would say "ith quickest person". As like the word "quickest", is there any more intuitive to refer who finishes before any other? – user81411 Feb 7 '17 at 4:29
  • @user81411 The seventh person finished first. – RichF Feb 7 '17 at 4:29
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    @user3099298 Yes, you could say, "Robin ate his ice cream before Harry." It sounds imprecise, though. Robin may have eaten his yesterday, while Harry didn't even start eating his until after lunch today. Using finished instead of ate, while technically the same, adds a connotation of comparison, or a sort of race. Thus I believe "finished" is the better fit. – RichF Feb 7 '17 at 4:34
  • Well, I did wrong saying I want "ith person finishes before any other". By saying "ith quickest", I meant 1st quickest among the ten people, 2nd quickest among the ten people, thus tenth quickest (or the slowest) among the ten people. In such a way, I want to generalize for the starting time who finishes first, then second, and so on. – user81411 Feb 7 '17 at 4:35
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Harry is quicker/faster, but Robin is earlier. Harry had a higher speed while Robin started the activity earlier, with a lower speed.

  • It would be more natural to say "Robin finished sooner". Without more context "earlier" refers to time of day and not relative time. – Andrew Feb 7 '17 at 5:54
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    Please edit to include an explanation of why this is correct; answers without explanation do not teach the patterns of the language well. See the Submitting Answers that merely answer the question discussion on meta. – Nathan Tuggy Feb 7 '17 at 6:16
  • That's why I wrote 'earlier': Robin started in an earlier time of the day than Harry. But his relative time of activity was longer. – clau Feb 7 '17 at 6:44

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