Former vs Latter: What’s the Difference?

Knowing the difference between the word former and the word latter can stop you from experiencing embarrassments in the future. The good thing is, there are numerous tricks to help you remember the difference between former vs latter and what each word means. First, let’s get started on what the definition of each word actually is.

What Does Former Mean?

In this section, we’ll break down what the word former means.

Definition of Former

  1. having previously filled a particular role or been a particular thing.
  2. denoting the first or first mention of two people or things.

For the context of what we’ll be talking about today, we’ll be focusing on the second definition. Specifically, “denoting the first,” is the section of the definition we’ll be focusing on.

Examples of Former

“Bob and Josh are brothers. The former is the older sibling.”

In the above sentence, the word former refers to Bob. As per the definition of the word former, the word is used to denote the first person or thing mentioned in a list of items. In this case, Bob is the first one mentioned. Bob is the older of the two brothers.

“The Sears Tower and the Pentagon are both large buildings. The former is much, much taller.”

In the sentence above “the Sears Tower” is referred to as being taller than “the Pentagon.” In both cases, the word former, whether used to describe a person or a place, refers to the first-mentioned item in the list.

“Africa has both lions and cheetah. The former is much bigger.”

“Good looks and intelligence are both good qualities, I prefer the former.”

What Does Latter Mean?

Definition of Latter

  1. situated or occurring nearer to the end of something than to the beginning
  2. denoting the second or second mention of two people or things.

Both of the above definitions are in the context of what we’ll be talking about today; however, we’ll be focusing on the part that says “the end of something.” Something at the end is also last. Last is the word we’ll be using to help us remember the difference between former and latter. First, below are a few examples of how to use the to words in a sentence. Next, you’ll learn the difference between former vs latter.

Examples of Latter

Now we’ll use the same sentences to show how the word latter can be used.

“Bob and Josh are brother. The latter is the younger brother.”

In the above sentence, we get the same information, it’s just phrased differently. This time we used the word latter to refer to Josh, telling the reader that he is younger than Bob.

“The Sears Tower and the Pentagon are both large buildings. The latter is much, much shorter.”

In the same way, the word latter is used to refer to the second building mentioned. It provides the same information: the Sears Tower is the taller of the two structures.

“I like apples, pears, and grapes. The latter is my favorite.”

“My favorite authors are Jane Austin and William Shakespeare. I like the latter better though.”

How to Remember the Difference Between Former and Latter

There is one easy trick to remember which is which when it comes to former and latter. Remember how we said that something listed at the end can also be said to be last? “Last” begins with the same letter as “latter”; this will help you associate the word latter with the word that comes last, or at the end of a list of subjects.

On the flip side, “former” begins with the same letter as the word first. This will help you associate the word former with the first subject in a list.

With this trick, you’ll never get confused when it comes to former vs latter again.

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