Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In a sentence, if someone says the former, they are talking about the first thing they listed, and says the latter for the last thing they listed. What would be the term to refer something in the middle of a list? Consider the following two scenarios:

I like to eat burgers and hot dogs, although I like to eat the former more.

I like to eat burgers, hot dogs and ribs, although I like to eat the __ more.

share|improve this question
3  
The words former and latter are comparatives, which means they can only be used in a list of two items. For a list of more than two, you need to use the corresponding superlatives, which were formerly formest and lætest, but are now first and last. –  Peter Shor Jan 21 '13 at 5:23
    
@PeterShor And foremost is still in use for place; latest for time. Corresponding to foremost is hindmost, and corresponding to latest is earliest or soonest. –  MετάEd Jan 21 '13 at 6:10

2 Answers 2

Linguistic accuracy and correctness apart, the common way of expressing this reference is with the phrases first-mentioned, (ordinal)-mentioned, and last-mentioned. The suffix -mentioned too could be elided.

If I like burgers best,

I like to eat burgers, hot dogs and ribs, although I like (to eat) the first(-mentioned) most. — (better say most among the three, right?)

There could be other ways of accomplishing this, though.

share|improve this answer

Counting from the beginning, the second. In a list of three things, the things are the first, second, and third.

It would be less common, but possible, to count back from the end. The thing at the end is the last. Before it is the next to last.

Another, even less common, way to count back from the end derives from Latin: ultimate, penultimate, antepenultimate. (However, when you are identifying the final stressed syllable of a Latin word, this is what you would normally use.)

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.