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In the sentence in block quote below, is it correct to say "on first dates" ?
Or is the correct form "on first date?" Is it supposed to be "on first few dates?"

During job interviews , ON FIRST DATES , and when meeting new coworkers , people make assessments of one another very quickly.

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  • How many dates are you talking about? Generally, people only talk about an initial, single date: on the first date. But if you want to talk about multiple dates, you would normally qualify it in some say: on the first few dates, on the first five dates. It's not entirely clear what you're asking. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jan 15 at 6:29
  • Here is the complete paragraph. During job interviews , ON FIRST DATES , and when meeting new coworkers , people make assessments of one another very quickly. – Gugma Jan 15 at 7:25
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    It's appropriate in this context because the sentence refers to the 'first date' as a type of occasion, not to a particular couple's first few dates. – Kate Bunting Jan 15 at 8:41
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    With the full context, the use of the plural in on first dates now makes sense. When asking future questions, be sure to provide this kind of context from the start. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jan 15 at 16:13
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    @JasonBassford The thing to remember is that, although every established couple (except for some people in arranged marriages) had one first date with each other but the majority of people will have had a number of first dates with other people. Some of these first dates will have resulted in longer attachments but some of them will have been the only date the incompatible couples had. This is the parallel between first dates, job interviews and meeting coworkers. – BoldBen Jan 16 at 1:30
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During job interviews, on first dates, and when meeting new coworkers, people make assessments of one another very quickly.

It may seem odd that "first" (which usually refers to only one thing) is used with the plural "dates". While a person may only have one "first date" with any single person, they may have many "first dates" each with a different person (one first date with person A, one first date with person B, etc.). The statement in the example sentence applies to any first date with any person, so it applies to "first dates" in general.

The phrasing of "first dates" also fits with the parallel rule. job interviews is plural. first dates is plural. new coworkers is plural. Everything is plural; everything is parallel.

  • This answer seems to imply that "first dates" is plural for the sake of the parallelism, but it should be plural in this context even in the absence of any parallelism. Perhaps you can point out that "first dates" is plural because while you have only one first date with any given person, you can have many first dates (each with a different person) over the course of a lifetime. – Tashus Jan 18 at 17:55
  • @Tashus Is that distinction relevant? – Double U Jan 18 at 17:57
  • If you mean the distinction between "plural for the sake of parallelism" and "plural because of context", I think it is relevant for helping learners understand the language. If you mean the distinction between "one first date with a specific person" and "many first dates with many people", I think it is relevant in explaining what the aforementioned context is. – Tashus Jan 18 at 18:05
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    In other words, I think it is better for the learner to understand "oh, it is plural here because it is referring to any first dates in general" rather than letting them think "oh, it's just plural because it fits with the other words." If you don't agree, I would be happy to provide an alternative answer. – Tashus Jan 18 at 18:06
  • I am talking about "people" in general. And people go to job interviews, go on first dates, and meet new co-workers. Everything is taken generally, and it fits with the other words. I mean both at the same time. – Double U Jan 18 at 18:09

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