How to Spell First — a Quick Spelling Guide

Word per word, it can get challenging for writers like you on how to write specific terms. Provided the different forms of words, you might wonder which is the correct spelling of first. Is it 1st or first?

Writing, especially for an academic or technical audience, can get too exhausting for you. Dealing with words like the one above may truly urge you to ask for help. As an author, it’s one of your necessary capabilities to learn how to spell terms correctly.

When trying to spell words that have various forms, you should focus on the English grammar rules applied to it. Don’t use a certain spelling if it isn’t favorable for the sentence structure or thought. You should first read through the content and decide if you’ll use 1st or first.

You might ask yourself sometimes, “is it 1st grade or first grade?” Which one is correct? Which one is wrong? The confusion is understandable.

By reading this article, you will end up learning the correct spelling of first and when to use its two distinct forms.

red and white led signage showing the ordinal number first
Photo by Javier Quiroga on Unsplash

What Does First Mean?

The word “first” is the ordinal form of the number one (1). Ordinal is also known as the chronological appearance of a number. It’s used to indicate something is the number one or earliest among the succeeding subjects.


Harald came first before Sigurd.

What is the Correct Spelling of First?

The word 1st has the same pronunciation and use as “first”. However, it’s only used when multiple order is present in a sentence. You can also find it handy when trying to indicate an enumeration of chronology or rank.

  • Bjorn is a 3rd Grader, while Hvitserk is 1st Grader.

You can use this spelling of the word “first” when there’s a list as well. Just as the “1st Grade” example above, it can indicate the rank or order of things.

  • The 1st Child is Bjorn, the 2nd is Ubbe, the 3rd is Hvitserk, and the 4th is Sigurd.

“1st” is read the same way as the regular spelling of the word “first.”

The textual spelling of the word “first” in this form indicates no succeeding order. It doesn’t signal reading a long list of chronology like the ones presented above. You use it as it is, depending on the accompanying situation or word depicted by the sentence.

The first school near our house sent my aunt a letter about last night’s alarming sound.

Feel free to use this spelling of the word “first” if there’s no comprehensive enumeration of order visible in the sentence. It may sound the same with the spelling “1st”, but it differs when it comes to purpose. You should keep this in mind when trying to spell the aforementioned word, just in case you forget it.

To Wrap Up

The spelling of the word “first” may have two distinct forms with different usage. If you choose to spell “1st”, you’re referring to the ordinal form which signals an enumeration of order. Meanwhile, if you spell it as the word itself, you’re referring to its adjective form.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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