How to use former and latter

How to use former and latter

Former and latter are used to refer systematically to a previously mentioned pair of things or people and to distinguish between them.

  • The difference between Jones and Smith is that the former writes well while the latter does not.
  • The former uses correct English grammar and the latter does not.

In the first sentence, former refers to Jones and latter refers to Smith.

In the second sentence, former and latter refer back to the previous sentence.


  1. As with pronouns, the words that former and latter refer to must not be so far away that readers have to search for them.
  2. Former and latter refer to a pair so cannot be used to refer to a larger set of things or group of people.

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