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Hi, I am wondering when to use "ensimmäisen kerran" and when to use "ensimmäistä kertaa".

Particularly I am seeing situations where both work, or at least there isn't much/any difference in English such as:

Minä tapasin hänet ensimmäisen kerran. / Minä tapasin hänet ensimmäistä kertaa. = I met him for the first time.

Kävin kuntosalilla ensimmäistä kertaa/ensimmäisen kerran. = I went to the gym for the first time.

I asked a Finn if they had a feel for which should be used and when, and they couldn't say, but hinted that "ensimmäistä kertaa" was the better option ... and I'm just wondering why?

1 Answer

+1 vote
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The difference between the two sentences, if any,  is very small. I reckon the choice between the two is based on intuition for most people rather than careful thought.

"Minä tapasin hänet ensimmäisen kerran." > duration more limited
 
"Minä tapasin hänet ensimmäistä kertaa."  > duration more open-ended


You'll find more information here (in Finnish): http://www.kielitoimistonohjepankki.fi/haku/vertailu/ohje/577
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