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I'm hoping to learn the proper grammar for a question I just asked a colleague.

  1. The first of two calipers shipped to us is here.
  2. The first of two calipers shipped to us are here.

marked as duplicate by Andrew, Nathan Tuggy, Jason Bassford, Hellion, RubioRic Jan 23 at 11:04

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  • 2
    This is a common question asked of English native speakers to test their ability to match subject to verb. The subject is "the first", which is singular, so it should be is. It's also a common question on this site, so you're likely to find many duplicate questions if you search for "subject verb agreement" – Andrew Jan 18 at 18:27
  • @Andrew Should it be marked as a duplicate? – Tashus Jan 18 at 18:27
  • @Tashus I don't know how others do it, but I have the hardest time finding duplicates on SE. For some reason every search pulls up any number of unrelated hits. There must be a trick to it. Fortunately this one was pretty easy, but I suggest Jocelyn do the search herself in case the one I linked doesn't help. There are many, many others. – Andrew Jan 18 at 18:30
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    I think this question is potentially confusing simply because the particular noun caliper is often pluralised when referring to a single instrument (somewhat like scissors). Which actually shouldn't have any relevance to the issue being queried, so perhaps it would have been better to ask about The first of two instruments shipped to us. – FumbleFingers Jan 18 at 19:07
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    @Andrew I've added a place for folks to share their searching tips to the Contributor's Guide on English Language Learners Meta. This is why it's really important to tag things properly - you can use tags to limit your search AND they affect what shows up in the "Related" section in the side bar... – ColleenV Jan 18 at 20:28

Here you should say:

The first of two calipers shipped to us is here.

Two calipers exist, but the subject of the sentence is only the first (caliper). Since this is only a single caliper, the singular verb "is" should be used.

  • 1
    You can ignore everything after the "of". The real subject is "The first", which is singular. – Double U Jan 18 at 18:27
  • @DoubleU Do you understand my answer to mean something other than what you have written? – Tashus Jan 18 at 18:28
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    I am just proposing an easier way to interpret the sentence. – Double U Jan 18 at 18:29

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