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  1. First, the man with the sword attacked the other man.

  2. The man with the sword attacked the other man one.

  3. The man with the sword attacked the other man.

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  • my problem is First in sentence. Feb 5 at 20:10
  • I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're asking
    – Kevin
    Feb 5 at 20:45
  • As Kevin says, it's not at all clear what problem you are referring to. Feb 5 at 21:12
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In this context "first" is used to indicate who made the initial attack.

The man with the sword made the initial attack. The other man might have fought back.

The man with the sword attacked the other man first, so it was self-defence when the other man killed the man with the sword

Your first sentence loses this idiomatic sense of "strike first", and just says that "the initial action was an attack by the man with the sword" other actions might have followed in the narrative.

First, the man with the sword attacked the other man. Then the man with the sword ran away. Finally, both men were arrested and charged with affray.

The second sentence is grammatically incorrect. The word "one" can't be used like that.

The third sentence allows the possibility that the man with the sword attacked the other man only after the other man had attacked the man with the sword.

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The answer is not straightforward. I will first analyze the pros and cons of the best option, then explain what is wrong with the other options. I will let you decide how you really want to say it in the end, given the many nuances of the exact wording and word order.

PREFERRED: Option 1

Sentence Number 1 means more or less the same as the sentence in the question. In other words, the following two sentences mean more or less the same:

a. The man with the sword attacked the other man first.

b. First, the man with the sword attacked the other man.

I choose this sentence because none of the others comes as close as this one. However, they do not mean exactly the same.

A. just tells us who attacked first. We assume the other man then counterattacked so that both men were fighting. The story that follows is most a stroke-by-stroke account of the fight.

B. tells us that the first thing that happened was that the man with the sword attacked the other man. However, because the word "first" is at the beginning of the sentence followed by a comma, we expect something unusual to follow--not a regular counterattack by the other man.

Often the story goes something like this:

First, the man with the sword attacked the other man. Then the power went off plunging the arena in darkness. Third, someone in the hallway mentioned something about fire and I smelled smoke.

Alternative Terms

Other terms writers often use instead of "second, third," are:

  • for second writers often say then or next
  • for third, writers often say after that

If this story had continued, we might have said "fourth" or "what followed."

As you can see, the nuanced meaning turned the reader's expectations into a very different direction. The very best sentence for A. is A, though you can rearrange the sentence in a variety of ways. Here are a few examples:

There were two men, one with a sword and one without. The man with the sword was the first to attack.

One man had a sword, the the other did not. The man without the sword was the first to be attacked.

Options 2 & 3

Why did I choose 1 over 2 or 3?

This is what we wanted to say:

The man with the sword attacked the other man first.

This sentence:

  1. tells us that there were two men,

  2. describes the two men (one with a sword and one without),

  3. and tells us:

    a. who attacked first, and

    b. who he attacked.

Options 2 & 3 say:

  1. The man with the sword attacked the other man one.

  2. The man with the sword attacked the other man.

Number 2 is simply wrong; you can't put two unrelated words next to each other. The word "one" does not belong. EXCEPTION: Sometimes when speaking, a person lists a number of things and counts them off on their fingers. They will say this kind of sentence and add "one" at the end. When we write it, we put a comma between "man" and "one" like this: the other man, one.

We then go on to list the next item like I did above in the paragraph where each sentence started with an ordinal number, i.e. first, second, and third. However, the story of a sword fight is hardly the time for counting events on one's fingers; I would not use this option at all in this context.

Number 3 does not tell us anything about the order of things, i.e. that he attacked first. Since there is no mention of "first," we assume the man who was attacked was badly hurt and that this was the end of the fight. Note how different this story is from the one above for A. In that story, we assumed the man without a sword had some other skills and was capable of counterattack.

Summary

This shows a variety of nuances based on the exact wording and word order. Hopefully, this helps you figure out the best way to say what you want to say.

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