General Question

jonno's avatar

When someone refers to something as "the former" or "the latter", do you have to stop and think?

Asked by jonno (1062points) June 10th, 2008

Firstly I have to figure out which one is which (I figure it out by knowing what “former” means… so if it is “latter” then it is the one that isn’t the “former”), then I have to re-read the sentence to figure out which option they were talking about in the first place.

Is it just me?

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21 Answers

ninjaxmarc's avatar

sorry I don’t comprehend :)

jonno's avatar

For example:

‘The Macedonia naming dispute between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia refers to the opposition of the former to the use of the name “Macedonia” by the latter.’ (from Wikipedia)

gailcalled's avatar

No. Here is an example; I have 17 first cousins and 39 second cousins; the former are interesting (first cousins) and the latter boring (second c’s.)

robmandu's avatar

Ah @jonno… that is just a very poorly worded sentence poorly phrased concept. It could’ve been done better. The author, methinks, wanted it to sound smartful.

If that’s what’s got you worried, then don’t.

gailcalled's avatar

@Rob (smartful—Shirley you jest) But I agree; both original text and example are poorly-worded. Now, my example is pellucid.

Technically, if you have two nouns connected by “and” as either subject or direct object, the “former” refers to the one that comes first.

Viz: Hillary and Obama have been running for president; the former finally conceded so the latter will probably be the Dem. candidate.

jonno's avatar

I actually found that Macedonia example after I made question. In previous texts that I’ve read that use “the former” and “the latter”, I’ve found that I’ve had to – maybe not “figure out” – but at least re-read the sentence to “match up” the former and the latter to what it is they are referring to.

Personally, it slows me down – just wondering if anyone else thinks this?

gailcalled's avatar

The *f*ormer means *f*irst in the sentence and the *l*atter – *l*ast.

ling_pi's avatar

personally i dont have any problem with the “former” and “latter”. It helps to avoid repeating a word unnecessarily, so if it slowed you down a bit, plz kindly think of it as a price for keeping you from going crazy of reading repeated words so many times :D Or easier, pay more attention to what you read/listen to so you can remember without having to look back:D

El_Cadejo's avatar

i dont have any problems with the two but people often seem confused when i use “the latter” in a sentence.

jlm11f's avatar

I don’t have any problem with this, but like uberbatman said, i know people who do have trouble comprehending it. They have to rethink the sentence. I think time and practice will get you used to it. You should try to use the words in your own sentences too, that will be the fastest way to make it click automatically in your head.

Seesul's avatar

I do, but then I have to think about left and right as well. I was born a leftie and switched, so it messed up my thinking on things like that.

Zaku's avatar

No problem here unless I wasn’t giving it full attention so I don’t remember the order clearly. Surely learning the words solidly would make it easier.

gailcalled's avatar

Well, when I joined Fluther, I had trouble understanding that “suck” could be used in place of 40 different verbs that connote negation. I adjusted (I definitely did.)

iriemuffin's avatar

Every single time!

readergirl119's avatar

No, the former is the first in the list of two and the latter is the second. Its really simple.

scamp's avatar

Latter reminds me of later. That’s how I remember it.

gailcalled's avatar

So why do Mormons call themselve The Latter-Day Saints?

Would we have found the rubric, “The Former Day Saints,” to make any more sense?

Zaku's avatar

“The Former Day Saints” was already taken.

LiLian's avatar

i always do :D

reijinni's avatar

They should go by the name: “The Republic Formerly Known as Macedonia.”

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