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What is the difference in meaning if we use "is" in the sentence below?

a) What is came first egg or chicken?
b) what came first egg or chicken?
c) what has came first egg or chicken?

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  • 3
    A cock doesn't lay eggs (I may have to get a t-shirt made up with that on it)
    – PerryW
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 7:26
  • 2
    The original phrase is "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"
    – PerryW
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 7:27
  • 3
    Makes it a whole new joke, phrased that way ;) Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 8:26
  • 1
    Grammatically your first sentence is incorrect .
    – serenesat
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 8:29
  • cock or egg?!! which came first? what a hilarious joke! I think it is cock!
    – Ahmad
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 8:38

1 Answer 1

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The difference isn't in meaning. Adding the verb to be, i.e. "is" in your example makes the sentence ungrammatical.

The proper verb to use here is come in the past simple, which corresponds to your example b.

The sentence should read:

Which came first: the egg or the chicken?

(Which instead of what - because you have two options to chose from; the definite article - because the metaphor refers to the very first egg and very first chicken).

The first sentence uses the auxiliary be in combination with the past simple form 'came' - this is simply ungrammatical, I can't think of any construction in English, which would combine these two.

The last example (c) combines auxiliary have with past simple form 'came', which is also ungrammatical. If you combined have with the past partciple 'come' you would get present perfect:

Which has come first: the egg or the chicken?

But, while technically grammatical, this sentence is in the wrong tense - past simple fits better here.

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