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First come, first served

First come, first served is a phrase popularized during the nineteenth century, though it may have been in use before that time. We will examine the meaning of the phrase first come, first served, how it is used and some examples of that use in sentences.

First come, first served describes a situation whereby customers are served in the order in which they arrive, those who arrive first are served first. The term first come, first served was popularized by shopkeepers during the nineteenth century. The system of first come, first served encourages customers to believe that they must act quickly or risk losing an opportunity, as well as guaranteeing that a customer will be served without regard to social station or favoritism. This system is so ubiquitous that the abbreviation FCFS is often seen in advertising to mean first come, first served. Note that the phrase first come, first serve is incorrect, the past tense form served should be used. The term should be hyphenated only when used as an adjectival phrase before a noun, as in first-come, first-served.

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Examples

Seating for this free event is first come, first served. (Seminole State College)

Rowe isn’t taking reservations – it’s first come, first served. (The Wichita Eagle)

Some Seattle landlords are suing over the city’s new policy requiring them to choose among qualified renters on a first-come, first-served basis. (The Clay Center Dispatch)

Shooters may enter as an individual or four-person team with golf carts available on a first-come, first-served basis. (The Bossier Press-Tribune)

One of the key changes defines the process for how first-come, first-served campsites can be purchased and includes a requirement that someone physically occupy the site immediately with a camping vehicle or tent. (The Omaha World-Herald)

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