Former vs. Latter: What’s The Difference Between Former And Latter?

What are the differences between "former" and "latter"? We'll explore the pros and cons of each term, and provide some examples to help you better understand when to use each one. Read more here.
Former vs. Latter: 5 Key Differences, Pros & Cons, Similarities

Former vs. Latter are words used as adjectives in a sentence to describe the word that comes before them. That’s why most people get confused about whether to use the word former or latter. But the main difference between former and latter is that the former is used to talk about the first two things which are mentioned already while the latter is used to mention the second two things which are mentioned already.

Let’s take a closer look at Latter versus Former

MeaningFormer means the first item, latter means the second item
ReferringFormer and latter can not be used while referring to groups
TextFormer and latter cannot appear in casual text
NounsBoth are typically used as a noun

What Is Former?

What Is Former? If we look at the former meaning: it is an adjective which is used to refer to something precious. Former can be used into three rationales. The first one is used after a sequence. In this type the former refers to the first two things which are mentioned in a sequence, for example: "homes these days have two water shut-off valves, the main shut-off valve and exterior shut-off valve, the former controls water flow for the entire structure". The second type of former refers to something that happened in the previous time or place. For example, "the meeting was held for two days. During the former, the manager talks about the policies". And the last type of the former is to mention the previous state or position that no longer exists. For example, "John's former husband did not show up at this party".

If we look at the former meaning: it is an adjective which is used to refer to something precious. Former can be used into three rationales. The first one is used after a sequence. In this type the former refers to the first two things which are mentioned in a sequence, for example: “homes these days have two water shut-off valves, the main shut-off valve and exterior shut-off valve, the former controls water flow for the entire structure”. The second type of former refers to something that happened in the previous time or place. For example, “the meeting was held for two days. During the former, the manager talks about the policies”. And the last type of the former is to mention the previous state or position that no longer exists. For example, “John’s former husband did not show up at this party”.

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What Is Latter?

What Is Latter? If we look at the latter meaning: it is an adjective which is used to refer to the second two previous things. Latter can be used in a sentence in two rationales. The first one is to use the word latter to refer to the last two items, which are in sequence. "The roots can cause cracks in the foundation and sidewalks. The latter structural condition concerns future homeowners." The second one is to use the latter in a list with longer than two items. For example,” make a tea with spices, lemon juice, and some fresh mint leaves. You can substitute the cardamom leaves for the latter.

If we look at the latter meaning: it is an adjective which is used to refer to the second two previous things. Latter can be used in a sentence in two rationales. The first one is to use the word latter to refer to the last two items, which are in sequence. “The roots can cause cracks in the foundation and sidewalks. The latter structural condition concerns future homeowners.” The second one is to use the latter in a list with longer than two items. For example,” make a tea with spices, lemon juice, and some fresh mint leaves. You can substitute the cardamom leaves for the latter.

5 Key Differences Between Former and Latter

ComponentsFormerLatter
DefinitionsFormer means first item, it is an adjective which is used to describe something the previousThe latter means the second item: it is an adjective which is used to describe the second two previous things.
Refer ToFormer refers to the first two items mentioned within a sequence in a sentence.Latter refers to the last two items mentioned within a sequence in a sentence.
Used ToFormer is used in a situation where the word can be replaced with the phrase “the first one” it can also be used to indicate something that came  before something elseLatter is used to describe the last items in a longer list. It is also used to refer to something that comes after, like latter-day
SynonymsSome synonyms of the former are:Old, ancient, bygone, above, erstwhile and departedSome synonyms of the latter are:Final, closing, following, last, modern and second
ExamplesEmily debated whether to order pizza or a burger, and we agreed on the former to satisfy our pepperoni cravings.There were different cars in red and blue; she chose the latter because this color reminded her of the sky.

Former vs. Latter Similarities

  • Whether it is former or latter, both words are used in academic and informal writing to mention something precious.
  • Both of these words can be used as adjectives and as a noun as well.
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Former vs. Latter Examples

Former Examples

  • Both the lions and the penguins in the zoo were beautiful, but Sarah liked the beautiful names for the former.
  • The stranger was yelling at John and Sarah; I think he was mad at the former.

Latter Examples

  • Henry was confused about whether he should make brownies or ice cream; he chose the latter because the oven was broken.
  • The store sold both sweaters and socks; Linda bought the latter, so she could keep her feet warm in the winter.

Former vs. Latter Pros and Cons

Former Pros and Cons

Former Pros and Cons

Pros of Former

  • Former is a very useful word used in technical writing to help the readers understand and focus on the sentence.
  • Former can also be used to show additional reference to the historical people, for example,” the former president”.
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Cons of Former

  • Use of the former may look simple, but there are exceptions to the English language role.
  • The word “former” can not be used in everyday speech or social media blogs, as people prefer to use simple words.

Latter Pros and Cons

Latter Pros and Cons

Pros of Latter

  • Latter can be used to refer to something previous in a sequence.
  • Latter can also be used as a synonym for the word” later” or “near the end”; for example, during the latter part of the 19th century, bars replaced coffee houses.

Cons of Latter

  • The use of the latter has declined by most of the British and American English writers as they discover direct references create clarity in the books and journals.
  • Some of the style guides also do not recommend using the word “latter” because it may cause vagueness on the reader’s part.

Comparison Chart

What are the differences between "former" and "latter"? We'll explore the pros and cons of each term, and provide some examples to help you better understand when to use each one. Read more here

Comparison Video

Former vs. Latter [SAT Vocabulary] sat writing and language

Conclusion

Former and latter are words used as adjectives in a sentence to describe the word that comes before them. That’s why most people get confused about whether to use the word former or latter. But if we talk about the former versus latter, they are different from each other. There are many former vs. latter differences, like they have different spelling, meanings and usage. Former means the first item; it is an adjective which is used to describe something the previous. Latter means the second item: it is an adjective which is used to describe the second two previous things. Moreover, Former is used in a situation where the word can be replaced with the phrase “the first one” it can also be used to indicate something that came before something else. While the latter is used to describe the last items in a longer list. It is also used to refer to something that comes after, like latter-day.

Alex Stantor

Alex Stantor is a Sorbonne University (Paris, France) graduate in Philosophy and Data Analysis. Currently, he is an Author and Researcher at Difference 101, he writes articles/blog posts on topics such as "thinking differently" and "the importance of difference". Alex is a passionate advocate of diversity in the workplace and in companies, and diversity and inclusion in corporate communications. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

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