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Former Vs Latter: What Is The Difference? Meaning, Examples, & How To Use Them?

by Shahnawaz Alam
Last Updated on: September 29, 2023

Former vs latter.

When we are talking about these two words, there is always a sequence of two things in a formation. According to this two-part sequence, one of those two things comes first, and the other comes later.

We can also say that these words are also used to distinguish between two things set within a specific two-part sequence. When someone is writing about two specific things, they can use the words former and latter to identify between both of these things. However, you cannot use these words if you are talking about or writing about more than two things.

So, if you are ready to know more about the same, you can go through the article I have provided here for you. So, without any delay, let’s take a dive

Former Vs Latter: Meaning

Former Vs Latter: Meaning

Online Etymological Dictionary describes the word “former” as derived from the Old English word “Forma”, which means first. During the 12th century, the word former was used to mean “earliest in time or first.” But the meaning shifted to its present description during the 1580s. After the 1580s, the word “former” started to be used to mean “the first of two.”

Again, coming from Old English, the word Latter also had a similar meaning during the Old English period. The word “lætra” was used as a comparative form of the word “Late.” But similar to the word Former, the word Latter also took until the 1550s to arrive at its current meaning, which means “the second of the two.”

Yes, both of these words are used in a sequence. But they can also be used separately. You will have a much better understanding of these words once you go through some examples of the same.

Former Vs Latter: Examples

Former Vs Latter: Examples

Here are some examples of both of these words –

  • I had a red pen and a blue pen. I kept the former and gave the latter to my cousin.
  • He was married twice and had two wives named Maria and Julie. The former died during the famine, and the latter fled with a war refugee.
  • We went to two different parties that night. The former was out of town, and the latter was at my friend’s house in my neighbourhood.

Now aside from using both of the words in the same sentences, we can also use them separately. Here are some examples of the same –

  • The Witcher and Vikings are great TV shows. But the former one is my favourite.
  • Both the blue team and the purple team played semi-finals. But only the latter remained for the final match.
  • Both Jimmy and Rhonda worked at the store. But only Rhonda kept on working, and the former left.

Former Vs. Latter: Uses

Based on the examples provided in this section, you can see that the word ‘Forrmer’ is being used to refer to the person, thing, or animal that appears first in a list or mentioned earlier in a sentence. Similarly, the word ‘latter’ is used to talk about the last person, item, or animal in a sentence or a list. 

Both ‘Former’ and ‘latter’ are noun phrases. Hence definite article ‘the’ should always be placed before these two words. As noun phrases, ‘Former’ and ‘Latter’ should only be used when talking about two individuals, animals, or things. These two words should not be used when writing a bullet list or while talking about more than two people or things.

‘Former’ and ‘Latter’ are also used as adjectives. As an adjective, ‘Former’ is used to refer to a previous/past state, whereas ‘Latter’ is used to refer to the time period towards the end of something.

Former Vs Latter: Difference

Former Vs Latter: DIfference

As you can see, these words help you explain two things and their position in a sequence. Both of these are related when distinguishing between the position of two things in a sequence – and that is all the difference that is between both of these words.

If you are still feeling confused about the difference and meaning of these two words, then there is a simple trick that you can apply to remember the meaning and when to use which word. The first letter in the word ‘Former’ starts with the letter ‘F’ which stands for ‘First item/person in a list’. Similarly, the word ‘Latter’ starts with the letter ‘L’ which stands for ‘Last item/person in a list’.

However, when using them in a sentence, there are a few things that we need to keep in mind. While it adds a certain kind of flare to your writing, the overuse of these terms can also confuse the readers. If you keep using these words excessively, it will require the reader to glance back at the two things in the sequence or in comparison.

Readers tend to lose interest in reading your piece if it requires them to manoeuvre a lot in between objects, events, things and similar. These types of words are only used only in academic writing and are hardly ever used for any conversation. The speakers and the listeners don’t have anything to get back to, which is why fancy words like these are not used during any regular conversation.

Former vs. Latter: Exercises

Here are some exercises to help you test your understanding of these two words: 

  • He preferred oranges to apples because the ____ were not as juicy.
  • Maria speaks Spanish and English. She speaks the  _____ better than the latter as it is her mother tongue.
  • Henry was given the option to have vanilla or chocolate ice cream. He chose the ___ because he does not like the vanilla flavor.
  • I take flute, violin, piano, and guitar lessons. I like the ___ one most.

Bottom Line

When you are talking about more than one item, it would be best to stop using the words like Former and latter. For example, it would be difficult to understand what you mean if you wrote something like – I love eating fish, mutton, bacon, and chicken, among all the non-veg food. But the latter is my favourite.

Always use these words when distinguishing between only two things, and keep the user in moderation. I hope that the Former vs latter difference was made clear through this article. But if you have any similar queries, you can ask me in the comment section. I will get back to you as soon as possible.

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