On the first attempt vs. at the first attempt


Is there any difference between ‘at the first attempt’ and ‘on the first attempt’?
Many thanks,

TOEIC listening, photographs: A heavy truck load

Hi Torsten,

On the face of it there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of difference between the two, at least to me. Perhaps, and I’m flying a bit if a kite here, ‘at the first attempt’ could suggest something fairly simple like for example trying to open a screw top bottle. ‘On the first attempt’ could be something slightly grander like trying to get into university, starting a new business and so on. But these are just thoughts.


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Hi Alan,

Thanks a lot for your answer which is very helpful.

TOEIC listening, photographs: The herdsman

I’d say it’s something like:

Richard Cobb failed on (the ocassion of) his first attempt to get the Oxford Chair of Modern History
Richard Cobb failed at (the moment of) his first attempt to get the Oxford Chair of Modern History

Maybe “occasion” has a feeling of period and “moment” a feeling of point there, but I may be joining Alan in his kite flying, so…

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You might have to to tether that kite, Alan.

-passed her driving test at the first attempt
-and did not enter Parliament until 1690. He had been defeated at his first attempt in 1685, and in 1689
-Even a world title at the first attempt .
Unless you don’t see those as grand/er things. :wink:

And then we get:

well over 80,000 who went to work on the first attempt at constructing the Panama Canal in the 1880s.

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