I want to know the different between the phrases the first to do and the first who ever did. Please give some examples.

  • 1
    It sounds only like a difference in emphasis. Can you give an example or two of sentences where you've seen these phrases? – Ben Kovitz Dec 6 '14 at 1:26
  • 2
    What is the source of your confusion? The difference between "I was the first to jump in the pool." and "Chuck Yeager was the first person to ever break the sound barrier." seems pretty clear. – ColleenV Dec 6 '14 at 1:38

We both wanted to see that movie, but I was the first to see it. Two weeks later she saw it too.

This means an action done first within a limited group of actions.

John Doe (the director) was the first person who ever watched the completed movie.

This means the first time anyone saw the completed movie.

The comment by ColleenV above makes the same distinction.

  • Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. Neil Armstrong was the first man who ever walked on the moon. Like they said, the main difference is emphasis and exclusivity. "Who ever" is more exclusive. I wasn't the first person ever to see the movie, just the first person out of me and my friends. But no-one else can be the first human to walk on the moon. First woman, first person of color, first dog--sure. But not first human. That is only Neil Armstrong. – miltonaut Dec 6 '14 at 4:01
  • OK, a bad example. I edited my answer. – user3169 Dec 6 '14 at 4:49
  • Oh, I wasn't saying it was a bad example. I was just adding a little to it. – miltonaut Dec 6 '14 at 5:04

"The first to do vs the first who ever did"

Semantically, these phrases seem to be similar, but they significantly convey different senses.

The former phrase is used in an ordinary sense whereas the latter is used in an extraordinary sense. We often hear in our daily life "you were the first to solve this question; he was the first to come to the meeting; I was the first to arrive, etc. etc.

On the other hand, we use the phrase "the first who ever did" when somebody does something exceptional that nobody did before. for example, Muhammad Ali was the the first boxer who ever beat more champions; Nixon was the first American President who ever visited China, etc.

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