Former vs Latter

Former vs Latter

The difference between former and latter is that former means first or before, while latter means second, last, or after in a group of multiple things.

Former vs Latter

Used to describe words already mentioned in the sentence.ObjectSame object as the former, but it talks of the last part of the sentence.
Former comes before.UsageLatter comes after.
If I had to choose between a horse and a car, I’d choose the former. ExampleIf I had to choose between a horse and a car, I’d choose the latter. 

Difference Between Former and Latter

Whether it’s academic writing, technical writing, or formal conversations, you’ll likely come across the terms former and latter. Both terms are reference words used as adjectives that can help describe the noun that comes before them. 

Definition of Former

We use former to specify which came first when speaking about an individual or thing. 

Definition of Latter

We use latter to specify which came first when speaking about things or individuals from the past.

Although we use the terms former and latter similarly, they do not have the same meanings. Latter and former are opposing concepts, and we only ever use them in the same sentence to make comparisons.

Whether used as an adjective or a noun, terms like former and latter describe historical events. However, employing the former in connection with the latter makes these two terms challenging. 

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former vs latter
“While our former projections were off, our latter estimates were much closer.”


When using words like former and latter to characterize sentence objects, former always comes before latterThe latter of a chronology is the most recent in terms of the author or narrator.

Former means and solely represents previous objects, whereas latter may also refer to a secondary or concluding item in a series, whether in the past or future. This makes former and latter challenging to grasp. This is feasible if the term latter is used in a phrase without the word former.

former vs latter
“The director’s former message said to meet at 9, while her latter message moved the time to 9:30.”

Examples of Former and Latter

Former is an adjective, and it may signify two things. It may also allude to a position that has since been abandoned, as in the terms former Marine or former employer.

Former Examples:

  • Although Bob had a Jeep and a car, the Jeep was his former mode of transportation. Former is an attribute that changes vehicles in this phrase.
  • Whenever the choice is between a brave death and a cowardly life, I will always pick the former. Former becomes an unofficial noun in this phrase. It serves as the verb choose’s object.

Latter is also an adjective. It signifies the second item in a list of two objects and is the counterpart of the former.

Latter Example:

  • After interviewing an experienced candidate and a new graduate, the manager eventually hired the latter

Knowing What Former and Latter Mean

The points above draw the line between the meaning and usage of former and latter. They’ll give you a clear idea of the two terms, help you efficiently use them in sentences, and ensure the English grammar is correct. You’ll get a hold of the terms if you regularly practice their usage regularly. 

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If you found this article helpful, check out our post comparing further versus farther.


Vanessa is passionate about written communication, especially after beginning her career as a middle school English teacher. She’s an experienced content marketer as well. Vanessa loves to analyze, compare, and contrast, which is why she writes for ContrastHub. Besides writing, Vanessa is a wife, mom, entrepreneur, spicy food enthusiast, comedy nerd and lifelong learner.

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