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  1. #1
    Alexey86 is offline Senior Member
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    This is a/the second time...

    I'm reading Hamlet for a/second time.

    I can use either a or the depending on the context. I would use a if the hearer weren't aware of that fact or didn't know exactly how many time I was planning to read Hamlet.

    But I couldn't find any examples of this is a second time. So it seems This is a second time I'm reading Hamlet would be incorrect. Why?
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  2. #2
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    Re: This is a/the second time...

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    I couldn't find any examples of this is a second time. So it seems This is a second time I'm reading Hamlet would be incorrect. Why?
    Right. Neither of those are correct.

    You have to think of the phrase (for) a second time as a complete adverbial phrase, basically meaning 'again'. Don't think of a second time as an independent noun phrase.

    Even though the preposition for in the phrase for a second time can be omitted, it's still 'there' in a manner of speaking, when it is:

    I'm reading Hamlet for a second time.
    I'm reading Hamlet a second time.


    These are the same. The difference is only that the preposition is unarticulated in the latter.

    If you insert the omitted preposition in your phrases, you'll see why they're incorrect:

    *This is for a second time I'm reading Hamlet.

  3. #3
    Alexey86 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: This is a/the second time...

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post

    I'm reading Hamlet for a second time.
    I'm reading Hamlet a second time.


    These are the same. The difference is only that the preposition is unarticulated in the latter.
    Really? I always thought for a/the second time and a/the second time mean different things when used at the end of a sentence:
    He succeeded for the second time
    tells you that he has succeeded twice, while
    He succeeded the second time
    indicates that he failed the first time and has only succeeded once.

    ( https://ell.stackexchange.com/questi...he-second-time )

    Possible context: Suppose I had a very rare, old and fragile book so there was a bunch of people who wanted to read it. But I was ready to give it only several people. At first, I gave it to Bill. John read the book the second time = he was the second man I gave the book (or a second time if the number wasn't specified or was unknown to the hearer).

    But if we start with it, then This is the second time I'm reading Hamlet = I'm reading hamlet for the second time.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 10-Apr-2021 at 13:17.
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  4. #4
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    Re: This is a/the second time...

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    He succeeded for the second time
    tells you that he has succeeded twice, while
    He succeeded the second time
    indicates that he failed the first time and has only succeeded once.
    Yes, that's all correct. But we're talking about the phrase for a second time, with an indefinite article.

    I think you're perhaps confusing lots of different phrases. To untangle this, first try to separate the definite and indefinite forms (which have different meanings/uses) and then separate by whether it's adverbial or not.

  5. #5
    Alexey86 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: This is a/the second time...

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Yes, that's all correct. But we're talking about the phrase for a second time, with an indefinite article.
    We're talking about the difference between for a second time and for the second time. And it's quite clear:

    He went to the supermarket to buy bread. He went to the supermarket for a second time because he had forgotten the milk.
    He went to the supermarket twice. The first time he bought bread. He went for the second time because he had forgotten the milk.

    ...using "a second time" implies that there could be a third or fourth time that follows the second time.
    (https://forum.wordreference.com/thre...-time.2307136/)

    The same logic can be applied to do smth a second time vs the second time with the meaning I mentioned in the possible context above.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 10-Apr-2021 at 13:16.
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    jutfrank's Avatar
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    Re: This is a/the second time...

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    ...using "a second time" implies that there could be a third or fourth time that follows the second time.
    (https://forum.wordreference.com/thre...-time.2307136/)

    The same logic can be applied to do smth a second time vs the second time with the difference in meaning from for the/a second time I mentioned above.
    I don't think that's quite right, but fine. So has your question been answered then?

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    Alexey86 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: This is a/the second time...

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I don't think that's quite right, but fine. So has your question been answered then?
    Not exactly. I only see that when we start a sentence with this is the second time, it can only mean for the second time:

    I'm reading Hamlet for the second time = This is the second time I'm reading Hamlet.
    I'm reading Hamlet for a second time = This is a second time I'm reading Hamlet (wrong).

    I can't say why the latter is wrong.
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  8. #8
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    Re: This is a/the second time...

    For me, there is absolutely no difference in meaning between:

    1. I'm reading Hamlet for the second time.
    2. I'm reading Hamlet for a second time.
    3. I'm reading Hamlet a second time.

    They all mean I've read it from start to finish once in the past and I'm now somewhere beyond the start but I haven't reached the end yet.

    You could solve the problem by saying "I've read Hamlet once before. Now I'm reading it again"!
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  9. #9
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    Re: This is a/the second time...

    *This is a second time I'm reading Hamlet.

    The above sentence is wrong, yes. I tried to explain why in post #2 but I'll say it a second time: The phrase (for) a second time is similar to 'again'. The reason you can't use it in that sentence is the same reason that you can't use again:

    *This is again I'm reading Hamlet.

    But, if you do the same simple substitution ((for) a second time / again) in your pair, it works:

    I'm reading Hamlet for a second time.
    I'm reading Hamlet a second time.
    I'm reading Hamlet again.


    They're the same.

  10. #10
    Alexey86 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: This is a/the second time...

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    For me, there is absolutely no difference in meaning between:

    1. I'm reading Hamlet for the second time.
    2. I'm reading Hamlet for a second time.
    3. I'm reading Hamlet a second time.
    If these were the same then there were nothing that could prevent you from saying either This is the second time I'm reading Hamlet or This is a second time I'm reading Hamlet. But the thing is that I couldn't find a single example of "this is a second time..."
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