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I'm aware that if I want to say 'The first [something]' it would be はじめの + [something] (i.e. like the manga/anime はじめの一歩 'The first step').

But now I got across the following phrase "はじめての夢"

What is the difference between はじめの~ and はじめての~ ?

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はじめの just refers to the first one in a list/sequence. はじめての modifies some event/place/etc experienced or observed for the first time.

  • はじめの夢 the first dream (when you're talking about one's multiple dreams)
  • はじめての夢 the first dream in one's life
  • はじめの一歩 the first step (to achieve some future goal)
  • はじめての一歩 the (memorable) first step (e.g., on the moon)
  • はじめのギター the first guitar (among the multiple guitars mentioned)
  • はじめてのギター one's initial experience about a guitar / Guitar for Beginners (book title)
  • はじめての雪 the first snow (observed in a certain area), the first snow (you experience in your life)

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