I have been reading a long discussion about another grammar thing and stumbled upon the following:

It will be the first time I have flown to America.

I wonder why there is present perfect tense and not just present simple?

It will be the first time I fly to America. //probably incorrect

I do not understand it as the speaker is talking about the future, he is not there yet and neither is he on the plane...so why use present perfect?

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    Why all the extra verbs?? .......... "It will be my first flight to America." – Gary's Student Apr 22 '14 at 14:35
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    @Gary'sStudent Rewording a sentence to avoid using verb tenses does not answer the question, and there is a (very) subtle difference between talking about how many times one flies and a particular flight. – SimonT Apr 22 '14 at 22:43
  • @SimonT .........yes...........I see your point..... – Gary's Student Apr 22 '14 at 22:45

"It will be the first time I have flown to America." - the flight will have finished at the point in time you're talking about: "It will be the first time [that] I [will] have flown to America". The first part of the clause indicates a future time, the subclause "i have flown to America" is in future perfect, indicating a completed future event.

"It will be the first time I fly to America" - you are talking about a future event from the perspective of the present.

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  • Hmm, but I have flown to America is not future present but present perfect...And what would be the context for the one with present simple? Thanks – SilkEr Apr 22 '14 at 21:27
  • I guess if we say "It will be the first time [that] I [will] fly to America, we can communicate that is first flight to America, before boarding a plane. @msam Is that right? – Doctora Apr 23 '14 at 4:29
  • @SilkEr "will" sets the mood for the entire sentence, we don't need to repeat it; just as we omit it when we say "It will be the first time [that] I [will] fly to America" or "I will eat the fruit [that] I [will] buy". You can read more about future 'tense' here – msam Apr 23 '14 at 7:23
  • @Mari Both sentences would be communicated before boarding the plane. While on the plane "It will be the first time I fly to America" becomes invalid since you are already flying to America (the second one would still be correct but at this point you should consider different phrasing). Once you've landed both become invalid. The version with perfect focuses more on the completion of the activity while the other version focuses on the activity itself - in this case there isn't really much practical difference in meaning. – msam Apr 23 '14 at 7:43

The present simple tends not to get much usage in English as it does in other Latin-based languages. Typically it's used for describing an action that happens at an unspecified, or multiple times:

I fly to America every month or I fly to America if my work requires.

Rather than the present participle for when you're actually doing the thing: I am flying to America.

Since your example is talking about a specific, single time, it's perfectly reasonable to say It will be my first time flying to America. but it's not really an easier construction than It will be the first time I have flown to America.

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    Upvoted, but one quick nit: English is a Germanic language, so I wouldn't consider it "Latin-based" when talking about grammar. – Dusty Apr 22 '14 at 15:55
  • Stick in a comma, quick. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 22 '14 at 16:52
  • @Dusty You're right, of course. I meant it in the informal sense of being closely related to the Romance languages but realised how it would look after posting. – etheranger Apr 22 '14 at 22:42

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