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  1. #1
    Chicken Sandwich's Avatar
    Chicken Sandwich is offline Senior Member
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    Default This is/was the first time I've driven a car.

    Jack is driving a car, but he's very nervous and not sure what to do.
    You ask: Have you driven a car before?
    He says: No, this is the first time I've driven a car.

    Soruce: English Grammar in Use, p.17.
    Let's say that the driving lesson has come to an end. Jack steps out of the car. What should he tell his driving instructor:

    This is the first time I've driven a car.

    or

    This was the first time I've driven a car.

    or do both work? The book suggests that we use the first for actions that are still in progress, but I cannot figure out if it works for completed actions. Usually we can use the present perfect for completed actions, as this example from English Grammar in Use suggests: Her bedroom was green. Now it is yellow. She has painted her bedroom. But I'm not sure if it works in conjunction with "the first time".

    Thank you in advance.

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is online now Moderator
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    Default Re: This is/was the first time I've driven a car.

    For a start, if the lesson is over, I would start with "That" not "This".

    As you get in the car at the beginning of the lesson: This is the first time I've ever driven.
    At the end of the lesson: That was the first time I had ever driven.

    In the piece you posted at the beginning, it said "Jack is driving the car". If that is the case and he is speaking while he is driving, then "This is the first time I have driven" is fine. That would be correct right up until the end of the lesson. After that, it was the first time he had ever driven.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  3. #3
    Chicken Sandwich's Avatar
    Chicken Sandwich is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: This is/was the first time I've driven a car.

    Thank you very much, emsr2d2.

    I did a little bit more research about this topic after reading your message (which I should have done before posting my question ). I have found your version in Practical English Usage, 'It was the first time that I had heard her sing.'

    However, I have also found a different sentence, written by a speaker of AmE, 'That was the first time I ever drove a car.' Could it be that this one is acceptable in AmE?
    And another one, written by a speaker from Northern Ireland, 'That was the first time I have driven a car.'

    I'm not quite sure what to make of this. Could it be that in other varieties of English, other structures are acceptable as well?

    Thank you in advance.
    Last edited by Chicken Sandwich; 17-Sep-2012 at 16:45.

  4. #4
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Default Re: This is/was the first time I've driven a car.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chicken Sandwich View Post
    Thank you very much, emsr2d2.

    I did a little bit more research about this topic after reading your message (which I should have done before posting my question ). I have found your version in Practical English Usage, 'It was the first time that I had heard her sing.'

    However, I have also found a different sentence, written by a speaker of AmE, 'That was the first time I ever drove a car.' Could it be that this one is acceptable in AmE?
    And another one, written by a speaker from Northern Ireland, 'That was the first time I have driven a car.'

    I'm not quite sure what to make of this. Could it be that in other varieties of English, other structures are acceptable as well?

    Thank you in advance.
    You will find quite a few threads on the forum where we have discussed the fact that in AmE, it's acceptable to use the past simple with "ever".

    This is the first time I have ever eaten squid. (BrE)
    This is the first time I ever ate squid. (AmE)

    That was the first time I had ever eaten squid. (BrE)
    That was the first time I ever ate squid. - Actually, I now realise that I'm not sure if that is the AmE equivalent!
    Last edited by bhaisahab; 17-Sep-2012 at 20:23. Reason: Typo correction
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: This is/was the first time I've driven a car.

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Actually, I now realise that I'm not sure if that is the AmE equivalent!
    I could hear it in BrE without thinking of it as an import now.

  6. #6
    charliedeut's Avatar
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    Default Re: This is/was the first time I've driven a car.

    How about saying "I had never driven a car before"?
    Please be aware that I'm neither a native English speaker nor a teacher.

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