Confusing words: Latter and Former

Former comes before latter. The word itself means “coming before in time” or “preceding in place or arrangement”. If you were to say George Bush is the “former” president of the United States, the word has the same meaning in that sentence… He came before the current president. If I say, “I like apples and oranges, but I prefer the former over the latter,” that means I like apples more than oranges.

If there are two things or people, we use “former” to refer to the first thing or person and “latter” to refer to the second thing or person.

  • Between ice cream and fruit, Jim chose the former (ice cream) for dessert.
  • Joe and Mike are brothers. The latter (Mike) is taller than the former(Joe).
  • Both cats and dogs make great pets, but because my son is allergic to the former (cats), we’ll be adopting a dog.


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