I often see sentences where the person would say "my first initial reaction" and my question is should first and initial be used together? I don't like the sound of it - I would say either. my first reaction or my initial reaction - I don't know why this bothers me so much but there it is.

  • 1
    You are quite correct. It is tautology. Feb 10 at 9:42
  • Is it possible to have a second initial reaction? Only then would you speak of a first initial reaction. OTOH it works with a comma - you can have a first, initial reaction.
    – Peter
    Feb 10 at 14:00
  • @Peter if shown multiple images you will have an initial reaction to each one, your initial reaction to the first image could be said to be your first initial reaction. Ofc that's a very contrived example
    – Tristan
    Feb 10 at 14:01
  • Is it possible that the person is saying it as "my first, initial, reaction" as in the "initial" as coordinating phrase? So like "my first and initial reaction"
    – justhalf
    Feb 11 at 6:50

2 Answers 2


These are adjectives, not adverbs, but the question remains.

The two adjectives are redundant. They have the same meaning; you don't need both. In informal writing or casual speech, this is reasonably common, usually to emphasize the adjective more. But in formal writing, you would want to avoid including both words.

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    Redundancy in general is reasonably common in informal communication, but I can't say that I recall ever running across the particular redundancy in question here. Maybe it's a regional thing. Anyway, depending on which "this" you mean, I might or might not agree about it being common. Feb 10 at 19:16
  • I think this is a reasonably common phrase (Northeast US). There are other examples: "a tiny little car," "your last and final warning," et cetera.
    – alphabet
    Feb 10 at 22:19
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    Yes, I agree that there are examples of wording redundancies that are common, at least regionally. I know "tiny little" well. "Last and final" sounds a little stilted to me, but I'm sure I've heard it before. But "first initial" just sounds bad to me. That particular redundancy is in no way common in the various parts of the Southern and Midwestern U.S. where I've spent enough time to be willing to judge. Feb 10 at 22:30
  • I suspect this is a regional thing, at least with the word "reaction." I can certainly find uses of it, say, on Reddit: google.com/…
    – alphabet
    Feb 10 at 23:55
  • (Granted, where I am people typically drop the /t/ in "first," so it may sound more like "firsinitial.")
    – alphabet
    Feb 11 at 0:02

Not inherently wrong, but you should avoid it.

For a not-wrong example: "When my dog died, I had two initial reactions, and a third reaction which came only after a long time. My first initial reaction was rage. Rage against the world! Second, I also felt sadness. Sadness like an ocean of tears. Etc."

"Initial" refers to a beginning. It is valid to describe multiple things happening during a beginning.

However! If you start with "first," that implies that there is a "second" coming, and likely a "third." Unless you are going to list out a sequence, don't say "first."

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