1

Which is correct? Let's look at the conversation. How person B should finish the sentence?

A: I want to buy a T-shirt, but I don't know which one.

B: The...

a) The first one and the last one is okay.
b) The first one and the last one are okay.
c) The first one and the last ones are okay.
d) The first and the last is okay.
e) The first and the last are okay.

closed as off-topic by James K, shin, Mari-Lou A, kiamlaluno, Kinzle B May 2 '18 at 0:53

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  • 2
    As we are not here to do your homework, please explain what your answer is. Please explain why that would be your answer. Please explain why this question is difficult for you. That is three things you need to add to the question. Edit the question please. – James K Apr 20 '18 at 11:53
2

The basic construction here is...

X and Y [TO BE] okay

...where the subject (X and Y) is obviously plural, so the correct form of [TO BE] is are.

Written out in full, the two parts of the compound subject are the first T-shirt and the last T-shirt, but it's quite natural in English to replace the "primary" noun T-shirt with the generic referent one...

The first one and the last one are okay

It's also quite natural in English to "delete" repeated/predictable words, so...

The first one and the last are okay

...is fine because it's contextually obvious that the referent of last must be the same as that previously specified for first [one].


Not so obviously, perhaps, we can delete both instances of the word one...

The first and the last are okay

...because we already know from context what first and last refer to (strictly speaking, we're deleting T-shirt above, not one).

In fact, we can delete even more...

The first and last are okay

Various other less extreme deletions are possible (we don't have to delete the before last above, for example).

Also note that although usually we include the first instance of a repeated word and delete subsequent occurrences, it's quite possible in OP's context to retain only the second instance of the word one...

The first and the last one are okay

But I'll just point out that although we can delete the second instance of the article the above, we can't delete the first one. So...

? First and the last [one] are okay (NOT VALID)


There's one final point to make, regarding OP's suggestion (c)...

The first one and the last ones are okay

Because this includes both one and ones, this would have to refer to more than one "last T-shirts" (as well as one T-shirt that was looked at first). But if that initial one were omitted...

The first and the last ones are okay (both singular one and plural ones are valid here)

...this would be ambiguous as to how many "okay" T-shirts there are. The speaker could be referring to one or more T-shirts they looked at first, and one or more they looked at last. To make it unambiguously clear he meant just the first one and the last one, he could say, for example...

The very first and [the] [very] last ones are okay (second the and very are both optional)

...but since that's a bit of a mouthful he'd only say that if it was really important to avoid the ambiguity. Perhaps he's bored with shopping, and doesn't want his partner to spend ages trying on the first half-dozen and the last half-dozen T-shirts all over again before making a choice!

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