Former vs Latter | Meaning, Examples & Usage

Commonly Confused Words updated on  January 10, 2024 3 min read
Former is used to refer to the first item mentioned in a list of two or more things, and latter is used to refer to the last item in a list. This way, repetition can be avoided.

  • Former refers back to the first thing or person in a previously mentioned list. It can also be used to refer to a past state or to mean “previous” (e.g., “my former coworker”).
  • Latter refers back to the last thing or person in a previously mentioned list. It can also refer to a later time or period (e.g., “the latter half of this life”).

Examples: Former in a sentence

Examples: Latter in a sentence

I could choose between a free bag or belt, but I choose the former.

Samsung and Apple are both nice brands, but the latter is much more popular.

My former girlfriend is now competing on The Voice!

We will focus on paid marketing in the latter half of the year.

You can remember the difference between “former” and “latter” by looking at the letters they start with. “Former” and “first” both start with “f,” and “latter” and “last” both start with “l.”


How to use former

Former can be used in the following ways:

  • As a noun to refer to the first item in a list of two or more things, people, or places
  • As an adjective to refer to a past state (often to replace the prefix “ex-”)
  • As an adjective meaning “previous”
Examples: Former in a sentence
If I had to pick between a beach holiday or a retreat, I would choose the former.
My former girlfriend now plays in a famous theater production.
Before you move out, the property has to be restored to its former state.

How to use latter

Latter can be used in the following ways:

  • As a noun to refer to the last item in a list of two or more things, people, or places
  • As an adjective meaning “subsequent”
  • As an adjective to refer to a later time

Examples: Latter in a sentence
I was offered a sandwich or a poke bowl, but I chose the latter.
In the latter years, he really excelled in his career.
Susie wants to go on a sabbatical in the latter half of the year.

Latter-day

The expression latter-day is often used before a noun to mean “modern” or “present-day.” It is always spelled with a hyphen.

Examples: Latter-day in a sentence (determiner)
The latter-day emphasis on the environment is crucial for the future of our planet.
I am glad that the latter-day focus on mental health is breaking down stigmas.
Latter-day architecture incorporates sustainable design principles.


The former and the latter

The former and the latter are noun phrases that refer back to the first and last item in a list. In this context, “former” and “latter” are always accompanied by the definite article “the.”

Examples: The former and the latter in a sentence
We got offered pasta or rice. I chose the former, and Eric chose the latter.
Richard has both a son and daughter, but only the former attended his party.
We can order salads or pancakes, but the latter might be a bit more festive.


Some style guides advise using former and latter only in lists containing two items. While this is indeed the most common usage, you can also use these words for lists with more items. Alternatively, you can use “first” and “last.”

Former vs latter worksheet

If you want to test your knowledge of the difference between “former” and “latter, use our practice worksheet below!

Do you want to know more about commas, parts of speech, email, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


US vs UK

Parts of speech

Rhetoric

Gray vs grey

Action verbs

Metaphor

Judgment or judgement

Stative verbs

Simile

Favour or favor

Transitive verbs

Alliteration

Fulfil or fulfill

Verbs

Assonance

Labor or labour

Nouns

Malapropism


Frequently asked questions about former vs latter

What is an easy way to remember former vs latter?

You can remember the difference between former and latter by looking at the first letter of each word:

  • Former” refers to the first item in a list.
  • Latter” refers to the last item in a list.

Is it the former and latter or former and ladder?

The former and latter is correct.

  • Latter refers to the last item in a list of two or more things.
  • Ladder refers to an object that you can use to climb something or to reach something that’s up high.

Latter and ladder are sometimes confused because they’re pronounced somewhat similarly in US English.

The QuillBot Grammar Checker can automatically fix your mistakes for free!

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Julia Merkus

Julia has master's degrees in Linguistics and Language and speech pathology. Her expertise lies in grammar, language and speech disorders, foreign language learning, and child language acquisition.

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