14

Consider this sentence.

When I first moved here, there were not many pubs and because of that weekends would be boring.

Is the use of "first moved here" correct? It indicates that I have moved to this place multiple times, while I moved in only once, and after that I never moved out of this place.

Can someone please explain this.

  • When first I moved here ... is an acceptable, if old fashioned, alternative, with the same meaning. – TRiG Feb 16 '13 at 20:23
20

Yes, "When I first moved here" is perfectly correct in this case. It does not mean that you have moved there multiple times, though I can understand the confusion. When you say "When I first moved here" it means you're talking about something that happened very close to the time that you moved to a place. For example, let's say you moved there four years ago. Now, four years later, there are lots of pubs, and weekends are very interesting! But you're telling a friend that when you first moved there, meaning around the time of four years ago, there were not a lot of pubs, and weekends were boring.

In contrast, if you do mean to say that you moved somewhere multiple times and want to talk about the first time that you moved to that place (as opposed to the second or third time you moved back) you would say "The first time that I moved here". For example, you can say:

"The first time that I moved here, houses were very expensive so I rented an apartment. I moved away to another city for a few years after that. The second time I moved here, houses were cheaper, so I bought a house and settled down for good!

This is not the same thing as "When I first moved here", though, as I have illustrated. Hope that makes more sense!

  • I think you could actually get away with "When I moved here first..." for the first sentence in your example. I'm not really interested in people claiming that might be "ungrammatical" - I'm sure that in practice, it would be understood as meaning the first time, rather than a [parenthetical] at first. – FumbleFingers Feb 16 '13 at 20:38
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    I disagree that "When I moved here first" would make sense. If I knew the speaker had moved here multiple times I might understand, but otherwise I would just assume they meant "When I first moved here", especially if they were learning English and had an accent. – Jeff Burka Feb 16 '13 at 22:22
  • @Jeffrey Burka: It makes a lot of difference if you know the speaker isn't a native Anglophone, since that means there's every possibility they simply don't know that idiomatically we use When I first moved here to mean at the time or soon after I moved here. But if a native speaker moves the word first to the later position, the usage is immediately "marked", so we naturally select the other credible meaning. – FumbleFingers Feb 19 '13 at 22:59
7

Yes, your use of first is perfectly idiomatic, natural native-speaker American English. I'd modify the written expression just a tad, however:

When I first moved here, there were not many pubs, and, because of that, weekends were boring. [More formal]

or

When I first moved here, there weren't many pubs and because of that, weekends were boring. [Less formal]

-1

By adding 'first' to this statement, it becomes tautological. Tautology is needless repetition using different words; for example 'free gift' is taut because, by definition, all gifts are free.

Including 'first' in your statement is unnecessary, a bit messy, and could lead to some confusion about how many times you have actually moved here.

  • I don't think first is extraneous, as described in WendiKidd's answer. – Ross Millikan Feb 18 '13 at 3:44
  • WendiKidd removes any ambiguity by adding the word 'that' in to the sentence, when describing how to use the term if you have moved multiple times. In the OP's sentence though, it is confusing because there can't be a first unless there is also a second. – ninjaPixel Feb 19 '13 at 9:15

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