1

I am using exactly the same sentence as the one used in a question already posted by someone else to ask whether one should not say and write "It will be the first time I fly to America." rather than "It will be the first time I have flown to America."

The question of what happens when the first verb is in the conditional (a future in the past: telling about someone who was about to do something) was not asked.

So, here it is…

Why should one say

"It would be the first time I had flown to America."

rather than

"* It would be the first time I would have flown to America.*"

or

"* It would be the first time I have flown to America.*"

or

" * It would be the first time I would fly to America.*"

or

"* It would be the first time I flew to America.*"

?

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  • 1
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is a better fit for ELL than ELU.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 27, 2014 at 23:47
  • @Mari-Lou A: like this?
    – user58319
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 10:25
  • @tchrist: I agree. Is this really unproblematic to any native speaker of English, though?
    – user58319
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 10:43
  • what makes you think one should say "It would be the first time I had flown to America." in the first place?
    – msam
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 12:30

3 Answers 3

2

Assuming the first sentence is correct: I was to go to America at the end of the week, meaning that you had planned to, but are no longer going to America at the end of the week, the correct second sentence would be the third conditional.

It would have been the first time I had flown to America.

If the trip to America is still happening at the end of the week the sentences should read

I am going to America at the end of the week. It will be the first time I have flown to America.

EDIT: I just saw some clarification and realize that we might be talking about the past.

If we are talking about a past time when the speaker was looking forward to a trip to America (both of which are now in the past), we could have

I was to go to America at the end of the week. It would be the first time I had flown to America.

So, in short, apart from the missing be, I think that the sentences are correct.

-1

Two rules are implied in the choice of the right tense in a sentence such as "It would be the first time I had flown to America.":

  1. When you do/did/will do/would do something for the first/second/third/etc time, the time period you are considering is a flashback, it moves from the point in time mentioned (the moment when I would fly to America) backwards to the person's birth to see how many times the action mentioned (flying to America) has been/had been/will have been/would have been repeated over this time period, so it is natural that the verb should be in a perfect simple tense rather than in a simple tense;

    • It would be the first time I would have flown to America.* (perfect tense needed)
  2. In time clauses – and "It is/was/will be/would be the first time that…" is followed by a time clause – future tenses are replaced with present tenses, and conditional tenses with past tenses, the aspects – simple, continuous, perfect simple, perfect continous – remaining the same;

    It would be the first time I had flown to America. (conditional perfect simple replaced with past perfect simple)

2
  • Is it too difficult to follow or are you simply allergic to rules?!
    – user58319
    Commented Apr 27, 2014 at 22:38
  • I did not know even answers could go grey!
    – user58319
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 10:24
-2
  • Situation 1: you're on the plane for the US and are telling your seat neighbor it's the first time you flew to America.

It is the first time I have flown to America.

Or, more colloquially:

It is the first time I flew to America.

  • Situation 2: you went to America two months ago and are talking to someone about it.

"It was the first time I had flown to America."

Or, more colloquially:

"It was the first time I flew to America."

  • Situation 3: you're flying to America at the end of the week, and are talking to someone about it.

If you're telling the story in the present, use:

"It will be the first time I fly to America."

If you're telling the story in the past, you should say:

"It would be the first time I flew to America."

  • Situation 4 (like in your example): you were supposed to fly to America at the end of the week but, for some reason, the trip was canceled. You're talking to a friend about it.

"Sigh, it would have been the first time I had flown to America."

Or, more colloquially and nonstandard:

"Sigh, it would have been the first time I would have flown to America."

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  • 3
    What dialect do you speak? I find your "will" and "would" versions unidiomatic; I would say "It will be the first time I fly to America" and "It would be the first time I flew to America." (I notice that you live in France; maybe that's influencing your English? French would use the future tense in this case, la première fois que je voyagerai aux États-Unis, but that doesn't necessarily carry over to English.)
    – ruakh
    Commented Apr 27, 2014 at 22:13
  • 1
    Still not quite right: It is the first time I have flown to America is what you might say to the person sitting next to you in the airliner, not talking about two months ago. Similarly, if you really are talking now about a conversation you had last month talking about your flight two months ago, the form is It had been the first time I had flown [or colloquially the first time I flew]. This is rare. Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 11:35

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