Key Difference: ‘Former’ means the first of the two things or people that were previously stated. ‘Latter’ is the last of the two things or people mentioned.
In the English language, there are various parts of speech that help us understand and properly use words and sentences, ex: nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. The terms ‘former’ and ‘latter’ are determiners and a type of adjective. An adjective is a 'describing' word, whose main role is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, providing more information about the object given. Determiners, though different from adjectives are considered as a sub-set of it. Determiners are words that reference a thing already in context and identify the relative position of a noun in time and space.
Merriam Webster defines the term ‘former’ as, “coming before in time; of, relating to, or occurring in the past; preceding in place or arrangement; and first in order of two or more things cited or understood.” ‘Former’ is derived from the Middle English word, ‘forme’ meaning “first.” The term describes the first of the two things or people that were previously mentioned.
- Jill visited London and Paris this summer, she preferred the former.
- John was given an option between buying a fountain pen or a ball point pen; he bought the former one.
- Jazz went out of popularity in the former years of the 20th century.
- The former chapters of the book were well written.
The term ‘later’ is defined as, “belonging to a subsequent time or period : more recent; of or relating to the end; of, relating to, or being the second of two groups or things or the last of several groups or things referred to.” It is the last mentioned in a comparison of two things or people. ‘Latter’ is derived from Old English word, ‘lætra’ meaning “late.”
- Between beef and ham, the latter is more popular among students.
- The caterpillar was in its latter stages of growth
- The latter part of the 19th century was filled with many technological advances.
- In his latter years, Jim became blind.
Once the concept of these words is understood, it is easier to use them in the proper context. An easier method to remember these words is to remember that Former = First, while Latter = Last. Also, F’ comes before ‘L’; similarly former comes before the latter.
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