1

-A: Nice handwriting

-B:

  1. This is the first time someone says this to me.
  2. This is the first time someone has said this to me?
  3. This is the first time someone is saying this to me.

Which ones are correct and idiomatic? Based on what I found in similar threads, it seems the second one is correct, but I was wondering if it has anything to do with how long in the past the action has taken place. So, does the fact that B responds right away make it ok to use simple present tense or does it still feel incorrect? Or ia there any circumstances that makes other ones correct?

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  • 2
    1 and 3 are not grammatical at all. Only 2 works. Please see our sister site for English Language Learners.
    – tchrist
    May 31 at 17:03
  • 2
    Note that this is one of those contexts where nearly all native speakers would nearly always use anyone rather than someone. I'm not sure exactly why (both words are perfectly valid here), but I think it might be to do with emphasis and negation (it never happened before). May 31 at 17:12
4

As far as I am concerned, all three can be correct, depending on the context in which they are spoken. None of your sentences is an idiomatic way of saying something. Each one is legitimate in its own way. Here's my summary of how each sentence could be both correct and acceptable:

  1. This is the first time someone says this to me. This sentence would be an appropriate response to the compliment if the person complimenting you is standing next to you and is commenting on something you just wrote, such as the address of a building he or she was looking for. Let's pretend this person is from out of town, and you live where both of you are standing. The "feeling" of the sentence is one of surprise and wonder. You know, "Wow! I've been complimented before on a number of things, but not on my handwriting. This is the first time someone says this to me." It's as if you are inviting the complimenter to join with you in your surprise. Substituting the word that would also be correct and acceptable; in other words, "That is the first time . . .."

  2. This is the first time someone has said this to me. A few minutes after you are given the compliment (in the above scenario), you tell your wife, who was not there when you received the compliment, that what happened (let's say just a few moments ago) has not happened before. In other words, you have searched your past history of having received compliments and have concluded that the compliment on your handwriting is the first time you can refer to the compliment as already have happened.

  3. This is the first time someone is saying this to me. Let's say that a week later you are telling a group of your friends about the guy or gal who complimented you on your handwriting. You are recounting the anecdote in the present tense, which is quite common. For example, you might say in a different situation regarding a different experience that has occurred in the past,

"So, this is the first time a girl smiles at me and then says, 'My name is Mary. What is yours?'"

The above scenarios are not the only way to complete the sentence that begins with "This is the first time, " but perhaps they give you a feeling of how nuanced and flexible the English language can be.

By the way, you could also phrase the sentence in this way:

This was the first time someone said this to me.

In this sentence, the simple past tense is used. The sentence sounds quite similar to your sentence number 2.

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  • 1
    This is such a great answer! Thank you and welcome to ELL!
    – Eddie Kal
    May 31 at 18:52
  • A thorough answer, but I don't think appropriate to someone learning English. Knowing that a sentence is maybe kinda technically correct given some obscure context isn't helpful to someone just trying to learn how to accept a compliment.
    – gotube
    May 31 at 22:39

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