I find this example quite interesting without using a "the" before the word "first":

7:05 p.m. First question is directed to Christie, who's asked what concrete steps he would take to get Americans back to work.1

I'm quite sure it is correct to say,"The first question is directed to Christie", then why is there a "first" alone? Is that acceptable in standard English? Is it right not to put a definite article "the" before some superlative adjectives such as "first"?

1. CBSnews

  • Where did you find this? Nov 11, 2015 at 2:49
  • It was found on CBS news site. You can click the sentence links to that news report.
    – dennylv
    Nov 11, 2015 at 2:54
  • 1
    Probably just typing fast. Since it is a play-by-play, perfect grammar is probably not the first concern
    – user3169
    Nov 11, 2015 at 2:55
  • 2
    Something I learned while trying to practice my German by reading articles online, one shouldn't entirely trust news outlets to use their own language properly Nov 11, 2015 at 6:40
  • 2
    I have found that for short reports like these, some words are omitted for brevity and somewhat to make some drama for the reader.
    – Beta Decay
    Nov 11, 2015 at 7:09

1 Answer 1


The noun phrase first question does sound a bit weird here, and it would sound weirder in normal written English, which usually expects the first question.

Note that this text is a live commentary on the debate, so some features of the English used here are context sensitive, especially the use of short sentences that don't carry a whole lot of detail. Definite articles are often left out in other contexts, such as lists. So I wouldn't say it was incorrect in this context, just different.

It is also similar to interviewing someone, and you are sitting across the table and instead of saying the first question... or perhaps more likely my first question.., one could very well just say: First question... and then ask the question.

But in most contexts, yes we would expect a determiner before first.

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