Why does “for the first time” only mean in a certain way?

For example, he drove the car for the first time.

Can it mean he drove the car for the first time of times people drove the car? I mean, he’s the first person who drove the car.

Why do people only use “for the first time” to mean that he drove the car for the first time of times he drove the car?

  • They don't mean the same thing. The first is not grammatical anyway. It should read It's the first time he has used the fire. It implies that he is currently using the fire and it is the first time he has done so. The second sentence indicates that his use of the fire has ended, though when he did so it was the first time.
    – WS2
    Jan 1, 2022 at 9:09
  • It sounds odd to speak of using a fire. Do you mean that he used fire (the physical process of burning), or that he used a fire (a particular heap of burning fuel)? We would normally say He warmed himself at the fire or He cooked (something) on the fire. Jan 1, 2022 at 9:45
  • @Kate Bunting I actually wrote anything to know what “for the first time” is.
    – user09827
    Jan 1, 2022 at 9:46
  • Oh, so you wrote these sentences yourself? Then I agree with WS2. It's the first time he has driven the car (he is driving it now and has never done so before). He drove the car for the first time (yesterday). Jan 1, 2022 at 9:52
  • 1
    @None If you don’t mind, I really want an extended answer.
    – user09827
    Jan 1, 2022 at 10:48

1 Answer 1


I'm making up a sentence from your words because context is always important to get a better understanding.

He drove our new car for the first time when we went to visit our parents.

Time here is a countable noun (countable means you can have it in the plural). The sentence means that at some point we acquired a new car and "he" drove it for the first time (for the first instance/occasion) in his life on the day we went to visit our parents.
After that there were several other times/occasions/instances on which he drove the car. And we could talk of a second time, a third time, etc. It's the meaning you mention in your comment: One of several instances.

In your original question you referred to the Big Bang and "the beginning of the time" (no "the" here). Time in that case refers to "a nonspatial continuum" from past through present to future" (1.a). The beginning of time" is a phrase we might find in a religious books, but not only. It means the moment when our World was created. This is not referred to as "the first time, or "a first time", there is just one, it's unique.

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