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It was my first game ever.

Does ever modify was or first?

This is my first time ever playing basketball.

Does ever modify is or first?

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  • Your sentences are shortened versions of It was the first game I had ever taken part in and This is the first time I have ever played basketball. Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 9:14
  • It's a modifier in the copular VP "was my first game ever".
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 9:39
  • “the first time ever I saw your face . . .”
    – Xanne
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 10:25
  • @BillJ Not in the NP "first game ever"? Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 11:39
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    This very good question, probably by a native speaker, belongs on EL&U. Please be more careful with migrating questions!!!!! Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 11:53

1 Answer 1

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Short answer - it modifies 'first'. It is very common to say something is the 'first ever' to make it clear that it is the absolute first.

For example, what would you think if someone asked "what was your first meal"? Would you think they meant your first meal of the day (ie your breakfast this morning) or the first meal ever in your life?

Saying 'first ever' can remove ambiguity, add specificity, or just add emphasis.

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  • I get that ever often follows first and thus first ever is a common string. I also definitely agree with your analysis. But what is your evidence that 'ever' is modifying first and not was? Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 15:43
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    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore What else could it be modifying? The fact that you could omit the word 'game' in some contexts and say "that was my first ever" should be an indicator. You couldn't omit the word 'first' and make any sense. "That was my ever game" would not mean anything.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 15:52
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    @JohnLawler that's not exactly right... yes, 'first' is a superlative, but within any given context. You could be the first today, the first this month, the first this year etc... and of course, the first ever. Also, if the seventeenth time doing something was still a really low number in the context there would be nothing wrong with saying, for example, "it's only the seventeenth time I've ever done it". Again, it would make it clear you meant the seventeenth time in your life, not the seventeenth time so far today.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 16:02
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    I don't agree that "ever" is modifying "first". If it were part of the NP "first game ever" it would be modifying the nominal "game", not the determiner "first". A modifier in the copular VP makes more sense to me.
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 16:45
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    If you want to. It doesn't matter what it modifies; it's part of the construction and that's good enough. Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 23:18

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