Below are two sentences:
1. When did you first meet your wife?
2. When was the first time you met your wife?
On the face of it, both sentences are in the past simple but what is it about the verbs/construction that means we can't use 'first' and 'the first time' interchangeably?
I would be delighted to find out more!
'First' is an adverb here but 'the first time' is a noun phrase.
Not a teacher.