Difference between Former and Latter

Published on October 25, 2016

“A few weeks ago, Anna was torn between taking a vacation in the Maldives with her family or going to Japan as an exchange student. Choosing the former would mean fulfilling her dream vacation, but then she met Hiro, who made her choose the latter.”

You might ask what latter in the sentence means. What did Anna really choose? Former and latter are two words that some people find confusing. Others don’t even know what they mean. Let us take a look at these two terms and see if they have any differences.

Definitions

Former vs Latter

Former refers to the first of two people or things that were previously mentioned. Former comes from the Middle English word forme, which means first. It can act as an adjective or a noun in different forms.

Examples:

  • I had job offers from Google and Amazon, but the former had bigger pay. (Noun)
  • I had job offers from Google and Amazon, but the former’s pay was bigger. (Adjective)

Latter means the last or second of the two things or people previously stated. The word is derived from the Old English word lætra, which means late or slower. Just like former,latter also functions as an adjective and noun in different forms.

Examples:

  • Caitlin wanted Maven and Venice to accompany her to the hospital, but the former was not allowed by her mom to go. (Noun)
  • Caitlin wanted Maven and Venice to accompany her to the hospital, but the former’s mom did not allow her to go. (Adjective)

Former vs Latter

What is the difference between former and latter? Former and latter often appear as a pair, which is confusing for many people to identify if they are similar words or not. The fact is that the two terms are the opposite of each other.

Former means the first of two, while latter is the last or second of two. Both words work as a noun and an adjective. But they’re also determiners, meaning words that determine the kind of reference a noun already has.

A simple and straightforward tip to easily identify the two terms is to remember the first letter of each word. Former means first, and both start with the letter F. Latter means later, and both words also start with the letter L.

Examples:

  • In her former years, Grandma was a beauty.
  • The latter part of the novel had me sitting up all night!
  • Between Johnson and McGregor, the former is more loved by the citizens.
  • In the end, she chose the blue one over the purple dress. The latter looked dull.

Comparison Chart

Former Latter
Functions as noun, adjective, determiner Functions as noun, adjective, determiner
First of two Second of two
Derived from word forme, meaning first Derived from word lætra, meaning late