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First annual vs. second annual

If the initial year an event is held it is called the inaugural, what is it called the next year? First annual or second annual? And why?

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Second or second annual. Because inaugural means first, that's why.

Janet September 18, 2006, 4:36am

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A possible confusion arises because the second time the event is held, it is the first time in a year. Suppose you organize an event at your neighborhood park. You have no intention of repeating it, but it turns out to be a huge success, and many people suggested that it should be done again. You then decide to do it every year. In this scenario, the first time it is done as an annual event is the second time. The original event had no concept of "annual" (could have turned out to be "semi-annual" or "monthly"). So, the answer isn't so clear-cut.

Dyske September 18, 2006, 8:03am

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Remember, even if you have every intention of hosting an event annually, you should never refer to the first such event as the "First Annual." Especially if you're sending a press release to a newspaper. I've been, and have known, editors who trashed away PR that used the term "First Annual."

jeffrey September 18, 2006, 10:19am

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Oh no, here we go again. You should see the sparks that flew on the 1st vs. 2nd Generation post!

Anonymous September 18, 2006, 11:19am

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It's the second annual event, because the counting going on in this case is counting the series and it would be the second in the series.

If you had a Masked Ball one year, the next would be the Second Masked Ball. Both 'green' and 'annual' are adjectives.

First Annual is sometimes rejected by newspaper editors because it's predictive and doesn't describe the present state of affairs which reporters should report. You could say 'first of a planned series of annual' but until the event has occurred twice it isn't actually being held annually.

Actually though, 'first annual' is more often rejected because it just sounds a bit odd.

andy September 18, 2006, 11:18pm

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bah should have read "Both 'masked' and 'annual' are adjectives.

Anonymous September 18, 2006, 11:19pm

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Annual: occurring once a year.
The definition is NOT:
Annual: having been proven to occur once per year (by occurring at least twice)

Ok, so we're really getting into semantics here. If it's the first year, it didn't occur the year before, so how can it be annual? Well, it's planned for next year, so it occurs once a year.

Let's put it another way. If first annual is so wrong, then second, third, fourth, etc., annual are all equally wrong, since the previous occurrence is not IN ANY WAY a guarantee that future occurrences will happen. There's no way to tell that the fifth anual event will be followed by a sixth annual event. Is a one-time five year run made up of annual events? If a PLANNED sixth year is sufficient, then isn't a PLANNED second year?

Perhaps the notion of an "anniversary" is clouding the waters. Clearly, the first recurrence (second occurrence) is the first ANNIVERSARY.

Lastly, it should be obvious that an annual event doesn't have to happen every year for all eternity, and needn't have happened every past year since the beginning of time, otherwise, nothing could be annual. So if this is true, why can't there be a last annual? or a first annual?

If you ask me, some time in the past, some smartass pedants overthought the thing to death. An point was raised that may OR MAY NOT have any real logical merit. Isn't this fun?

Anonymous too September 19, 2006, 7:46am

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Ok, let's really have some fun. I'll posit that the first event is not the first annual event because if there's only one event, nothing has occurred annually, even if future events are planned. Fast forward to next year; the event is repeated. At that time, the second event is the second annual event and, are you ready for this?, the first event becomes the first annual event immediately upon the commencement of the second annual event.
That's right. I'm claiming that it's impossible to "BE the first annual event", but that it is possible to "HAVE BEEN the first annual event"!!!
Whaddya think of that?!!!

Anonymous too September 19, 2006, 7:53am

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Or let's take the other tack. Since annual events do not have to be repeated indefinitely, I'll claim that it is REQUIRED for mathematical completeness (based on the rules of logic and set theory?), that a SINGLE EVENT, that is ADMITTEDLY planned for ONE YEAR and ONE YEAR ONLY, is STILL AN ANNUAL EVENT, as long as it meets one simple criterion: it is planned to (and does) occur no more or less than once in a year.

I plant a crop of pumpkins and have a single harvest, big pumpkin picking event, open to the public (I'm no farmer, but let's say that you can only grow and harvest one crop per year). I never did it before and I know I'm not going to do it again next year (or ever).

I'm claiming that this will be my FIRST AND ONLY ANNUAL PUMPKIN PICKING FESTIVAL!!!!!!

Anonymous too September 19, 2006, 8:04am

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Gee, I just realized, I'm a smartass pedant, too.

Anonymous too September 19, 2006, 8:07am

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I checked a few dictionaries and they all say "...occurring once a year". They do not say "...will occur..." or "...have occurred...". I think this is actually quite significant. It means that "annual" describes a present, instantaneous state, not a future or past one. Now, at first glance, it might seem to be dependent on future or past events, but this is not really true. It is actually dependent on a rate of change, which is also an instantaneous, present condition. With this in mind, I believe that "first annual" is a perfectly valid label.

porsche September 19, 2006, 8:30am

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"First annual" is of course correct. Before that it is the "zero annual" (or you prefer, zeroth; c'mon people, let's come up with the term), you know, numbers do start with zero, followed by 1, etc.

Jim Van September 22, 2006, 9:21am

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Here's the cite from the Associated Press Stylebook, which explains why -- whatever your personal opinion on this -- you should refrain from using "first annual" in any submission to a news organization:

"An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years. Do not use the term first annual. Instead, note that sponsors plan to hold an event annually."

If you are having a private event, call it anything you wish. If you want publicity through media, call it "inaugural" in order to be taken seriously.

gus September 28, 2006, 5:22am

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Words mean things, damn it. I had a Ball last year, and I'm having another on Tuesday. It is my second Ball, and I will be damned if it isn't annual!

Mr. Forsyte October 2, 2006, 8:50am

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First Annual is bad not because of logic, but because of politeness. Sounding presumptive is uncool.

NOW, here's a curveball: is the final event of a series still annual if no more are planned?

I guess calling them "Inaugural" and "Final" is enough to make "Annual" superfluous.

Doctor October 3, 2006, 11:31am

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so heres the thing, im at work rite now and this has become a heated debate. my feelings on this topic is first leads you to believe that theres more to come and annual leads you to believe its going to happen consistantly. so why cant it be the first event to be held consistently hence first annual

martin_perkins July 4, 2007, 4:59am

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I recently received an inviation to a fundraiser that indicates it is the 2nd Annual Grapes of Giving benefit.

Initially, the fundraiser is entirely different and has nothing to do with wine. The inaugeral event was a wine tasting benefit with a wine sommelier. Thus, I do not believe they should utilize the words "2nd Annual" when clearly it is not an identical event.

I can see utilizing the words annual and benefit, but not 2nd. I have been told by editors of newspapers that this is a huge faux pas.

I suppose if you are going to continue the same effort year after year and not change the platform, then utilize the number of years the benefit is in existence. However, if you are going to change the format or discontinue this type of fundraiser, then don't utilize the number of years.

Stacie L. Stevens August 18, 2007, 4:35am

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Gee, Stacie, if the format has changed so much that it is a "faux pas" to use numbers (2nd annual, etc.), then I would think it's equally wrong to even call it annual. As a matter of fact, it would even be dishonest and disingenuous to use the same name for the event. There is no acceptable amount of difference that makes it OK to say annual, but just different enough to not say 2nd annual.

porsche August 19, 2007, 3:12am

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Um, Gus, the AP style book, like ALL style books, is not a universal book of grammar. It is a set of rules agreed upon by a particular organization to set guidelines for THAT organization's activities and NOTHING ELSE. While quoting a particular style book might help somewhat in bolstering a particular position, it cannot be used to wholesale dismiss a viewpoint or anyone else's personal opinion, at least not without support from other more authoritative and universal sources. Style books often propose unique guidelines that are in direct opposition to grammatical norms, but suit the needs of a particular organization. That's why they're called STYLE books.

While it may be the AP's viewpoint, the statement "An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years..." is just plain idiotic. Would you accept that "No car can be described as driving at 50 miles per hour unless it has been driving for at least one hour"? Anyone who suggested it and agreed to it at AP or any other news organization is a moron, and I don't mean that metaphorically. Really.

Anonymous August 19, 2007, 3:42am

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Hmmm, Gus, I may have been somewhat unfair to you. I would have to agree that if you were submitting something for publication, at least to the Associated Press, then you should avoid 1st annual. Although, your comments notwithstanding, it defies explanation and has nothing to do with being taken seriously. It's simply a matter of following an organization's guidelines if you expect to interact with that organization on their terms. When in Rome...

Anonymous August 19, 2007, 3:49am

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I've raised this question alot and i agree that there is no first annual event until the second annual event takes place as explained previously by Anonoymous too sept 19.
To elaberate, the first World War was not called the first World War, it was called the Great War until the second World War started, THEN it was called the first world war.
Or is it the first annual of best intentions that will soon be called the one and only... This happened to our very own first annual Father Son golf tournament. And yeah, I'm havin fun now

bob September 22, 2007, 4:55pm

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Bob, your WWI example is irrelevant. WWI wasn't called the First World War in its day, because WWII wasn't planned or anticipated at the time. In fact, WWI was called "the war to end all wars"!

Anonymous September 24, 2007, 7:32am

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also, the objections raised were really not about the word "first" but were about the word "annual".

Anonymous September 24, 2007, 10:09am

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Also, bob, I think you may have misunderstood. Anonymous too said that "first annual" is CORRECT!!!

Anonymous September 24, 2007, 10:09am

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Ok So am I to understand that the 1st annual isnt actually the first time that the event is held but we are planning to hold it next year then is that event the 2nd annual or the 1st annual because it is the 1st time to repeat the event. Oh please send me some direction

weezie_58 January 17, 2008, 9:05am

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The second instance of the event would be the 2nd annual. See Andy A's comment above.

The first one is your initial event.

geo.raynor February 10, 2008, 3:32pm

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OMG, this is a huge pet peeve of mine! Absolutely positively beyond a shadow of a doubt, an event may never be referred to as "first annual" except in retrospect. If it occurs again, it is the "second annual" even if no further event is planned. How many events claiming to be the "first annual" never occurred again? Most of them, probably.

Nothing occurs "every year" until it has happened at least two years in a row. Thank you, previous anonymous commenter, for the World War II example, it's perfect!

If one is seeking an impressive-sounding title, use instead "inaugural" or "premiere."

Jules March 18, 2008, 8:14am

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I'm not a journalist, but I think that words should communicate clearly what the writer means. To ME, when I see "First Annual," it says that the event is planned to be held every year and this is the first year that it is being held. "Second Annual" relays the same message, but it says that it is an annual affair and this is the second time that it is going to be held. I don't have to ask if the event will be held the next year, because "1st Annual" communicates the intent of the organizer/writer.

Life is already too complicated. Let's keep it simple. Everybody in the world understands the concept of "1st Annual."

If not journalist, then change it. Keep up with the world.

flanna May 19, 2008, 2:33am

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First annual is an oxymoron. An oxymoron is "a rhetorical device in which two seemingly contradictory words are used together for effect". The operative word is is "SEEMINGLY". Just because something is an oxymoron doesn't make it wrong. We use them all the time. They are perfectly normal parts of speech. Where's John, the linguist, when we need him? "First annual" is common usage. That alone justifies its correctness.

Anonymous May 19, 2008, 11:38am

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oops, sorry about the " is..."

Anonymous May 19, 2008, 11:42am

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I look at this topic like I look at the turn of the century, even though it is 2008, we are now in the 21st century. Therefore, the fist time an event is held it is the inaugural, or the first time, the second time an event is held it is the 1st annual. Why does it matter if mentally it was thought to be a recurring event or not at the inception of that event? Not planning to have an event recur, is exactly how a lot of great events became recurring.

Math is important in speaking English. In regards to singular and plural, for example, how many times do you hear somebody say, "there's three." This means, "there is three", which is incorrect. "There are three" is correct.
So, it does matter from a historical point of view. If we never agree on 1st annual vs. 2nd annual, then we never really know how many years any important historical event has occurred. Just remember, it is all in the math.

Additionally, I think it is absurd that people shy away from speaking correctly, "because it just sounds a bit odd." Because I know the "Lie/Lay" rule, I use it. People who are ignorant of that rule tell me, "that just doesn't sound right", and they tell me that I shouldn't speak that way. Why? Because it makes them feel uncomfortable? I should just throw the rules of English away because other people are not willing to learn them? I think not!

tbracken July 4, 2008, 7:57am

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I think that inaugral is the correct term for the first event, as it implies that it will recur again but does not absolutely mean that it will. Then the 2nd time the event occurs should be referred to as the 2nd annual event, because the word 'first' is misleading, whether you like it or not - if I was to read an invitation to a 1st annual event, whilst I know it should have been called the inaugral I would not think that it was in fact the second time the event was occurring.

EP July 31, 2008, 2:47am

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I think it's all Lorna's fault.

Toby July 31, 2008, 8:08am

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I prefer the term "Inaugural", and is what I have always used if I am organizing something.

I understand that in an instant-sense, 1st annual is technically correct if an event is planned to be repeated, I just find it a bit presumptive.

And let's say that it never happens again, you wouldn't look back and say 'X was held annually for 1 year in 2003", but you would say "X was held annually for 4 years from 2000-2003"

So I realize it is a personal preference, but it does annoy me a bit when I see "1st Annual", and I would always suggest using "Inaugural".

It is the "annual" term that bothers me, I don't have a problem calling something "1st". It's just that regardless of plans, who really knows how frequently (or infrequently) something will be held until the 2nd? (could wind up being semi-annual, could be bi-annual, etc.)

Jeff February 25, 2009, 1:54am

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Proof once again that you can't fix stupid. Thank you, Ron White, for that gem of insight!

Listen March 18, 2009, 5:27pm

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Inaugural is how you describe the first event, then the next year is the First Annual event because it's the first anniversary of doing whatever you're doing. It is confusing, though. Consider dropping "annual" or just use the year.

sportswriter June 17, 2009, 9:12am

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<i>Remember, even if you have every intention of hosting an event annually, you should never refer to the first such event as the "First Annual." Especially if you're sending a press release to a newspaper. I've been, and have known, editors who trashed away PR that used the term "First Annual."</i>

It strikes me that any editor who refuses to report perfectly good, unambiguous information just because of some (highly disputable) linguistic error in the way it was communicated, is behaving both incompetently and unethically. The editor may have to follow the AP Style Book, but that does not mean the whole world has to. There is no reason why anyone communicating with a newspaper should even be expected to know that such a book exists. The editor's job is to edit, which in this case includes changing the wording from "first annual" to "inaugural." Any editor who ignores a communication because he is too lazy to and arrogant to do his job deserves to be fired right away!

nigel June 21, 2009, 2:43am

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I liked Jim Van's idea...

Let's do the zeroth (0th) event. If we could either start counting the way we code, or start coding the way we count, it would make life a little easier. No more converting between the count zero is place one.

On a serious note related to this, I don't think either side on this arguement is going to relinquish their view and claim defeat.

By the way, kidding on the 0th! Also kidding about changing coding to start at 1! *Shudders at thought of changing all his 'i=0's to 'i=1's*

adminjohns June 30, 2009, 8:44am

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OK, this first Annual thing is bothering me. A group I am part of is starting up a festival that will be held every year. I planned to call it "first annual" but then my wife said that is wrong and it should be "inaugural". The logic of you can't have a first until you have had a second is just idiotic. Does this mean that every numbered list should have "inaugural" in place of "1"? First annual tells people that it will be held every year, and it is the first in the series. Inaugural tells me it is the first event , and that is it.

If I schedule a annual physical with a new doctor, is it my inaugural physical or first annual visit? Which one is more descriptive?

I am going to take my inaugural leak of the day, because I am just not sure if there will be a second......

scottviola March 15, 2010, 6:35pm

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Ryan on June 17, 2009 said it best and correctly... at least as far as I know. I was hoping for solid proof from this discussion to show a friend. It doesn't look like I found it though. As I understand, the first event is the event's birth (when we are born we are 0, not one). So call the event inaugural or Party, etc. The next time you host the event, is the 1st annual (now you are 1 like your first birthday). Anyone out there an English teacher??

hkinder April 7, 2010, 5:10pm

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Seems there are a lot of people here who had their first birthday the day they were born.

And whoever it was up there that said.... "what's the difference, most people understand.... " is wrong. Most people misunderstand. I suppose you'll carry on "irregardless" of what others think. Right?

It is the Inaugural event. A year from now, it can be an annual event.


johnt November 19, 2010, 4:25pm

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First off, journalistic guidelines and grammatical guidelines are two different things. Grammatically there is nothing wrong with saying "first annual event". People seem to confuse the adjective annual with the noun anniversary. Annual simply describes the rate at which something occurs. It does not require a starting or stopping point. It's a descriptive word like smelly, loud, or repetitive. Anniversary on the other hand DOES require a first instance in order for it to exist. Let's say you are planning a fun event. Does the event have to take place -first- in order for you to describe your planned event as fun? NO. The same holds true for annual. If you plan for your event to be annual, you are free to describe it as such, and if this is the first instance of this annual event, it makes perfect sense to call it First "Annual Event", just like you'd be free to describe your fun event as First "Fun Event".

I think the drama has come from the area of journalism where they refuse to acknowledge the -plans- of people, organizations, etc. on the grounds that they report what HAS happened, not what is hoped will happen in the future. While "first annual " is grammatically fine, from a journalistic standpoint it is not because in those two words you are making -assumptions- about what will happen. Assumptions don't fly in journalism, which is probably why First Annual has received such a bad rap. People, businesses, organizations, etc are all free to make assumptions (which "first annual so and so" is doing in a grammatically correct way) but journalists are not. Somehow these journalistic guidelines evolved into grammatically "fact".

travisgentry78 January 26, 2011, 12:40pm

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Birthday is a noun and an event. Annual is an adjective and a descriptive word. They are not the same thing and your comparison is meaningless. You are grammatically incorrect in this case.

travisgentry78 January 26, 2011, 12:48pm

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John, it just so happens that everyone does have their first (and only!) birthday on the day they were born. What we celebrate each year afterwards are birthday anniversaries. We calling them birthdays is just a shortened form. And Tan, I'm with you.

porsche January 28, 2011, 1:34pm

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Oops, "We calling them birthdays is just a shortened form." should be just "Calling them birthdays is just using a shortened form"

porsche January 28, 2011, 1:36pm

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FYI April 14, 2011, 3:24am

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quite the debate...
The way I see it is this. The very first time of the event is held is not counted in the annual calculation. So, if you started in 2005, you don't count that as an annual event This way your 10th year would be 2015. Otherwise if you count 2005, your tenth anniversary year would techincally be 2014. And to me 10 years of an event should be 2005-2015 (not 2005-2014).

LKD April 14, 2011, 9:18am

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Even though technically 2015 is the 11th time the event has happened it would still be the 10th annual.

LKD April 14, 2011, 9:19am

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Please look up at Jules' post for clarity.

A First event happens first.

A Second event occurs second.

An Annual event is an event that occurs once a year.

An event OCCURRING once a year is not dependent on intention, but on occurrence.

An event can be a first annual event only upon reflection of its occurrence.

A second annual event is the first time an event has occurred two years in a row.

You cannot have a first annual event in the present or the future, unless you are a time traveling time traveler. Your intention to repeat the event does not make it annual as it has not yet OCCURRED for more than one year, regardless of intention.

This is really reeeeallly 10th grade stuff people.

Bob Bob April 16, 2011, 10:00am

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lmao! this argument has been going on from 2006-2011. I guess, this is the 6th annual discussion!!

Toy May 3, 2011, 6:27am

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Ok, I need help from the grammatical experts in the house. After reading through all of this, can I still have the first, second or third gathering of my planned quarterly business meetings in a single year?

Stinker July 15, 2011, 3:48pm

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So Bob Bob, by your logic, it is impossible to drive 55 miles per hour unless you drive at that speed for at least one hour, right?

porsche July 17, 2011, 2:42am

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Technically the 'first annual' is the second event. So 11 years would be ten annual events. Can't start on zero (same as the millenium, etc).

Frank Rizzo September 15, 2011, 10:32am

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Toy - it's the fifth annual discussion. You don't count the first year. Look at it this way - if I said See you next Monday and it's a Monday now, that's 8 days, not a week. If you're born January 1st then your next birthday is not a year - that would be December 31; it's 366 days. "A year ago today" is a misnomer - they incorrectly say 'a year' when in fact it's 366 days or even if it's ten years etc.

Same thing.

Frank Rizzo September 15, 2011, 10:34am

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LKD, 2005-2015 is eleven years if you are going to count the 2005 as one ie "first annual" event (wrongly, of course). If 2006 is the first annual (second event) then 2015 is the tenth annual.

Frank Rizzo September 15, 2011, 10:38am

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Think of birthdays...

Your 1st birthday celebration was the day you were born.
Your 1st annual birthday celebration is when you turn 1 year old.
Your 2nd annual birthday celebration is when you turn 2 years old.

Brent March 28, 2012, 4:20am

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I know this is an old topic, but one thing no one pointed out is that the ordinal (first, second) refers to the occurrence of the event, not the anniversary. In other words, the reference to "annual" means that it occurs every year. "2nd Annual" means the second occurrence of the event, which occurs annually. Grammatically, "second" and "annual" both modify the noun "event." Some people are mistakenly assuming that "second" modifies the adjective "annual," which is not correct.

There is a difference between the first event and the first anniversary of the event, which presumably would be when the second event would occur, and thereby be established as "annual" by virtue of an actual year passing between events. If you are having a First Annual Fundraising Banquet, you are just having a fundraising banquet. When you have the second banquet a year later, as planned, it becomes the 2nd annual banquet. The first event is the first occurrence, but it isn't annual until the second one occurs. The "annual" designation includes the first event, even though it isn't annual until the second. Therefore, the 50th Annual event is actually 49 years after the first event (1+49=50, imagine that!). The first event marks the BEGINNING of the first year, which doesn't become a year (or annual) until the year ends. The first Anniversary marks the END of the first year, which is when the second year begins and the second annual event occurs. Progressing, the 50th Anniversary marks the 51st annual event - the beginning of the 51st year. It's like our calendar, we don't start at zero, we start at one. If we start at one, then ten years later, it's the 11th annual event, which occurs on the 10th Anniversary. Not sure why people find it so confusing. It's really quite simple if you do the math!

And while it's true that technically anything happening once could be referred to as the first, the use of ordinals implies a series. In common usage, you do not use a numbered list (such as an outline) unless the "list" has more than one item. (a list, by definition, includes more than one item). In this context of sequence, there shouldn't be a first without a second. Obviously this doesn't apply to things like superlative records (the first person to achieve a milestone), but that is a different form of numerical usage. With scheduled events, "first" implies a "second," which might not ever happen. Inaugural is a good choice of words. "Premiere" means "first," so you wouldn't use that unless you would use First anyway.

The best way to avoid the conundrum, one way or the other, is to use the year: "The 2012 Fundraising Banquet." If you do it again the following year, you can call it "The 2013 Fundraising Banquet" or "The Second Annual Fundraising Banquet," take your pick! Or you could be like the NFL and use Roman Numerals, but that gets tiresome after you get past X.

BTW - Frank Rizzo's hypothesis that an anniversary is a year plus a day is incorrect. When you are counting the passing of days, you don't count the first day, because it isn't complete until the second day begins. It is one year from anniversary to anniversary. Assuming a normal calendar year, it is one day from January 1 to January 2. It is two days until the 3rd, etc. The anniversary marks the beginning of the 366th day, but 366 days haven't passed until the day is over (in other words midnight January 2), at which time, the Anniversary has passed, too!

Sorry for being so verbose - there was so much to respond to!

Rheneas September 12, 2012, 12:06pm

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annual = the number of times an event has occurred, beginning with 2nd year.
anniversary = the number of completed years an event has occurred.

Cissy August 8, 2013, 9:40am

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Follow this format:

1st Event- Inaugural
2nd Year- Annual Event
3rd Year- 3rd Annual or Annual Event is acceptable

John Mak September 1, 2016, 11:08am

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If I am correct and an annual event requires 2 years prior to an event for it to be considered an annual event. Then isn't the term "second annual" incorrect as well? Actually it should be referred to as consecutive meaning second? Looking forward to feedback!

Burt January 19, 2017, 6:51pm

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What happens if you skip a year?

Lisa at Gala Calendar March 25, 2017, 6:11am

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@Lisa: biennial

jayles the ungodly March 25, 2017, 7:02am

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The eleventh year after the inaugural year..
is there a special adjective?

Kim Bridge April 26, 2017, 8:13am

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So when I am 1 on my first birthday I have lived 1 whole year and I am beginning my 2nd birthday on my 1st birthday......On my 80th birthday I have lived 80 years and I am beginning my 81st birthday on my 80th birthday. IS THIS CORRECT? ? ? ? ?

Miss Sally April 30, 2017, 6:55am

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What if a 3rd annual event is cancelled at the last moment, due to force majeure? Would the next year be the 4th annual event, since the 3rd annual was planned (all the work went into it, including programs and money spent, and some people even did make it before the hurricane hit and the city was evacuated). If an event is cancelled, do you count it...or skip it?

april1 May 30, 2017, 5:11pm

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Yes     No