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I don't think you can be first than someone, but I was thinking like some sort of competition.

Would this be considered: The one that done it before you do?

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  • If you do something first, you do it before everybody, no need to say before whom. If you have done something quicker than another person, but you are not the first from all the persons that did it, than you say "quicker/faster than you" or "before you". Now way you can say "*first than you".
    – fev
    Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 12:13
  • "I will do/finish this earlier than you."
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 12:22
  • What do you mean by "the one that done it before you"?
    – alphabet
    Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 12:35
  • The only I see is a typo: "I'm doing this first, then you." Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 13:24
  • No. It doesn't make sense. and it's not grammatical. Where did you find this sentence?
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 22:04

1 Answer 1

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First is one of the few adjectives in English that does not have a comparative. It's a true absolute adjective: either something is first or it's not. You can't say I did it firster or I did it more first.

While many things that grammarians claim are absolute adjectives, like perfect, complete, and true, are really not, first really is one. People say more perfect, more complete, and truer all the time, but nobody says firster or more first.

And when you say "adj. than you", you need a comparative. So first than you, and firster than you are both wrong.

This Ngram is proof that first is a true absolute adjective, unlike perfect, complete, and true. Note that these few instances of more first that it finds are almost all expressions like more first prizes.

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  • I suppose foremost = first and hindmost = last are "kinda" comparatives in form, if not in substance. But it's certainly worth remembering that first, last can't really be made into comparatives at all, since someone is always ready to point out that most unique, for example, scuppers any assertion that unique is not "gradable". Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 13:01
  • @Fumblefingers: And many lists of absolute adjectives (like this one) leave out the real absolute adjectives like first, last, and main because they're compiled by prescriptive grammarians trying to force their prescriptions on us, and no native English speaker would dream of saying more first. Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 13:05
  • Haha - telling observation! We all tend to choose examples that support our own position. (But I guess seeing the wood despite the trees is your specialist subject when it comes to sampling, representative examples, and stuff like that! :) Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 13:11
  • Incidentally, "more first" sounds like exactly the kind of thing an infant would come out with before they become fluent in that area. Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 13:13
  • If one argues that the non-existence of comparative/superlative forms is the most sensible way to define an 'absolute adjective' (rather than on semantic grounds), the existence of 'firstest' [Farlex Dictionary of Idioms] disqualifies 'first'. Far more useful to class 'full' say as absolute, with the usage 'fuller' as shorthand for 'more nearly full'. Murphy [ThoughtCo] ... Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 18:07

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