Present, Past Participle, or Adjective?

I’m still thinking about "first-come, first-served basis". Are they both past participles? Yes, I’m talking about come and served. There’s no doubt about served, judging from its significant –ed form of past participles. It’s come that leaves me a question.

My initial understanding, which I still have some kind of conviction thereof, is that it can be recast as "If you come first, you will be served first." In this sentence construction, come is in the present tense. It shouldn’t be "will come" because the present tense replaces the future tense in if-conditionals. It can also be rewritten as "If you have come first, you will be served first". You can use the present perfect in if-conditionals, but it shouldn’t be the future perfect, as in "If you will have come first,…". As mentioned, the present (perfect) tense substitutes the future (perfect) tense. So I wonder if come is NOT the present tense BUT present perfect tense.

My friend says in his superb review that it’s the present perfect, and I agree. Wikipedia also says, quote, "… because 'come' is grammatically functioning as a past participle, as it does in the sentence, 'They have come.' The phrase abbreviates the sentence 'The first to have come is the first to be served.'" With all these cogent explanations, I still have trouble refuting the possibility that come can be in the present tense.”

Here’s another interpretation; come is an adjective. What? What are you talking about? In his article "First Come, First Served", Maddox quotes the lyrics of the song written by Steeleye Span, a British electric fork band. Please note that come in "the new-come lord" is an adjective modifying "lord";

some said, "give him the beef, the beef," / some said, "give him the bone." / and some said, "give him nothing at all / but let the beggar roam." / then up and spake [sic] the new-come lord, / a saucy word spoke he, / "pass round the cup, let my rival sup, / then send him on his way."

There seem to be several interpretations regarding come in "first-come, first-served basis", but the thing is, what an ESL learner can do to this labyrinth is to learn the phrase as it is, along with its abbreviated form of FCFS.



English learner


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