You are the first to see my house.

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1) You are the first to see my house.
= You are the first who visited my house

2) He is the last man to succeed in the attempt.
= He is the last man who will succeed in the attempt.

I am sorry about dragging this question out, but please pardon me. And what I would like to know is if there is no meaning of the future in #1 and there is a meaning of the future in #2, even though they have the same tense, so I think we should understand those kinds of sentences, depending on context, right? Thank you so much and I hope to hear from you again.

asked Feb 06 '13 at 07:45 Hans Contributor

1 answer


1

Hello again HsKyH7,

 

Thanks for both the follow-up question you posted on http://www.grammarly.com/answers/questions/11961-usage-of-the-last-the-first-to-v/#answer_16227, and this new supplementary question!  Let me answer them one-by-one.

 

"She is always the last to give up; He is sometimes the first to go home." are for the future or the past or either one is fine, depending on context?

 

When you use an adverb of frequency like always, sometimes, often, etc., with a present tense verb like is, the meaning of your sentence is that this regularly happens, so it has a past, present and future habitual or regular meaning.  The action is not happening NOW, but it happens on a routine/habitual basis, which extends back to the past and is predicted to continue into the future.

 

You are the first to see my house. = You are the first who visited my house
 

 You have asked an excellent supplementary question, which has caused me to rethink and add to my previous answer.  In fact, when the subject is a first person pronoun in the subjective case (I, we ), or the second person in the subjective case (you), then--contrary to what I said in my earlier post--it is possible to use the first/second, etc. person + to + infinitive without an adverb of frequency.  (When I was contemplating your question earlier today, I was only thinking of third person example sentences, using pronouns like he and she.  Your supplementary question has caused me to think of other examples in the first and second person subjective case that do, in fact, make sense without an adverb of frequency.)

 

[By the way, You are the first who visited my house is not correct.  You need the Present Perfect for this version - You are the first person who has visited my house; however, You are the first person to visit my house is much more natural.]

 

So, in fact, your example sentence above  You are the first (person) to see my house makes perfect sense and is grammatical. (I prefer first person.) It is a sentence using a second person pronoun.  It means that the person(s) you are speaking to at the present moment are visiting your house now, and no one else has before.

 

Other examples using first and second person pronouns
 

 I am the second person to eat at this restaurant.  It means that I am eating at the restaurant now, and only one other person has eaten here before me.  (First person)

 

You are the first person to tell me that you love me. It means that you are telling me now, or have told me just now, and you are the first person to say so. (Second person)

 

We are the third couple to marry here.  It means that we are in the process of getting married here, and we are the third couple to do so. (First person)

 

In all of the above three examples, if the action described in the to + infinitive phrase has definitely already been accomplished, to + have been + past participle would be more appropriate.

 

He is the last man to succeed in the attempt.= He is the last man who will succeed in the attempt.

 

I have now revised my previous comments on using a present tense verb + first + noun + to + infinitive, as outlined above, but I stand by my answer in the previous post about present tense verb + last + noun + to + infinitive
 

 For example, in the latest example sentence you have provided above, He is the last man to succeed in the attempt does not equal He is the last man who will succeed in the attempt.  As I hope I explained in the earlier post, the third person pronoun + present tense verb + last + noun + to + infinitive  construction is unusual, if not ungrammatical.  If you want to show that a living person was the last person to do this action, you need third person pronoun + simple past verb + last + noun + to + infinitive verb, eg.,  He was the last man to succeed in the attempt or (for a historical event accomplished by a living person only), third person pronoun + simple past verb + last + noun + to + perfect infinitive , eg., He was the last man to have succeeded in the attempt) .  The latter example makes the accomplishment of the action sound more important now.   

 

If you want to show a  future meaning with this construction, you have only two choices: (1) He is the last man who will succeed in the attempt, or (2) He will be the last man to succeed in the attempt. Both sentences are obviously predictions/guesses.

 

Your questions are fascinating, and quite difficult to answer fully.   I am stimulated by them, and maybe there is more to the answer than what I have outlined here and in the previous post.  I hope this helps, and perhaps others will weigh in.  Please do not hesitate to ask if you have any other questions about this.

 

Shawn

 

   

link comment edited Feb 06 '13 at 17:42 Shawn Mooney Expert

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