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There is this series in which a boy saves a girl from her submerged car. The girl does not know this boy at the time and does not remember him saving her. She formally meets him for the first time months after the accident.

How would the boy describe his first encounter with her (the day of the accident)? Can he refer to that day as

the day I 'met'...

or is there a more direct word/phrase? I am uncertain whether 'meet' is appropriate here because the meeting was one-sided.

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  • "The day I was able to help you", perhaps? Sep 9, 2022 at 16:41
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    The day I first encountered her?
    – Damila
    Sep 9, 2022 at 17:04
  • It's not quite clear what you're asking because the answer may be different if the reason that she doesn't remember meeting him is she didn't actually meet him since she was unconscious at the time than if she was conscious at the time but, for whatever reason, forgot meeting him. Sep 9, 2022 at 17:34
  • What if someone close to you had a baby, and you went to see the baby and visit the family? Ten years later, another visit, isn't it true that you could say, "I met you when you were just a baby?"
    – livresque
    Sep 9, 2022 at 23:03
  • She was unconscious at the time, @BenjaminHarman Sep 10, 2022 at 9:18

3 Answers 3

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To meet is when you meet someone intentionally or by appointment. Encounter is to meet someone unexpectedly:

to meet someone unexpectedly, or to experience, esp. something unpleasant:

  • In the kitchen I encountered a woman I had never seen before.
  • He was shocked by the hostility he encountered. (Cambridge)
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I would go for

When I first saw you

or

The first time I saw you

It is simple and there is no ambiguity. Seeing someone does not imply that the other person sees you too or is aware of your existence, otherwise you would use each other or meet.

Here is a quote that illustrates this use:

That was the first time I met you , not the first time I saw you . " Leaning against the glass , she crossed her arms in front of her . “ Really ? Then when was the first time you saw me ? ” “ I was calmly having lunch on a Wednesday last month when I looked out the window and saw you getting out of a long gray limousine in front of Chez Madeleine”. (The Luck of the Irish, by Patt Bucheister, 1988)

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  • Thanks, @fev. I get what you mean, and yes, technically, in my example, the boy did see her for the first time when he saved her. But he didn't stop there - he also saved her life. There was a reaction from his end. I feel that in such a case, 'see' does not properly represent his first "interaction" with her. What do you think of 'interacted' instead? Sep 10, 2022 at 13:31
  • "Interacted" contains the prefix inter- which implies "between", so it is reciprocal contact. Why not "the day I saved you" then?
    – fev
    Sep 10, 2022 at 13:33
  • Fair point. "The day I saved you" works, but I want a universal verb, so I can use it for other 'one-sided encounters' for lack of a better phrase. Sep 10, 2022 at 16:54
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Most of the ways I can think of require the use of “first”: first met; first encountered; first coincided; first ran across; paths first crossed; first came across. These are all things that can happen more than once.

I have hit on only one phrase (not a single word) and one word specific to the first occasion that are not qualified by “first”:

Collins
hit on or hit upon
to discover unexpectedly or guess correctly

Once someone or something is discovered it may be argued that it cannot be discovered again by the same person. Hence the hitting on or discovery is the first such encounter. We find this notion in:

Cambridge
discover
to find information, a place, or an object, especially for the first time

Hence “I hit upon (on) you when I saved you from the car” or “I discovered you when I saved you from the car”.

Of the two, I suggest hit upon (on) is better and preferable at suggesting a meeting, whereas discover feels more impersonal.

{Please note that that there is another use of hit on related to sexual advances that is not relevant to this question.}

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