Why do we need to use the definite article "the" in front of the adjective "first" if the meaning of this sentence is complete without it right there?

-When I met her for the first time I couldn´t help but fall in love with her.

  • 4
    Because it is specifically that time.
    – Schwale
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 17:53
  • 2
    Also, see Definition 3b: Used before an absolute adjective.
    – J.R.
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 18:29
  • 1
    I don't think it has anything to do with the word first. We'd use a definite article there no matter the number, i.e the second, the ninth, the forty-ninth, the seven million, six hundred thousandth time. It's an ordinal number and the use of the definite article 'right there' is simply idiomatic. Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 21:52

1 Answer 1


Generally, if you a restrictive relative clause is implicit, the definite article is needed.

When I met her for a time which was the first

When I met her for the first time ...

In some sense you are correct, but only colloquially (e.g. first thing in the morning). The simple answer is that "for the first time" is an idiomatic. This is generally true for superlatives (the biggest ...) and similar to French (grand, plus grand, le plus grand ...). Omission of the preposition "for" is also common in American English.

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