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I am asking a question: "Who is the first man to scale Mount Everest?" but my peer argues that it should be "Who was the first man to scale Mount Everest?".

To me, present tense makes more sense to me since Sir Edmund is still the first one to scale Everest no matter how much time will pass, he is the first.

So, should I use is or was?

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Split.

Yes, as of Feb 2018, Sir Edmund Hillary is still alive in the present tense. But his achievement was in the past. He "scaled" Mount Everest. He "is" the first man but the occurrence is past historic and not still occurring.

"Who is the first man to have scaled Mount Everest?".

Equally the following phrase is still accurate:

"Who was the first man to have scaled Mount Everest?".

In that when he achieved this, immediately after the event, he "was" the first man to have performed this feat.

  • +1 for is the first to have scaled. And this is also idiomatic: He was the first man to scale the peak. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 19 '18 at 11:36
  • Thanks. The scaling has occurred in the past, yes sure, but my whole argument is around being "first" which to me should be addressed in a simple present tense. I will wait for other answers and mark yours as correct answer if I don't get any. – Najam Feb 20 '18 at 11:03

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