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Is it okay to say "my latest five novels" when I want to express "five of my latest novels"?

As far as I know, "five" is a postdeterminer, so it precedes an adjective (except for "last/following/top", to name a few) as a rule.

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Maybe what you want is my last five novels. –  Simon Kuang Jul 15 '13 at 7:55
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This answer of mine on another question compares dictionary definitions of last and latest and discusses their differences. It is not directly relevant to the current question, but may be of assistance. –  TrevorD Jul 15 '13 at 11:11
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3 Answers

This usage depends on your desired emphasis. Either grammar is acceptable. Your choice depends on whether you want to emphasize "five" or "latest," or "novels." In classical grammar "five" would be deterministic but any order is acceptable in modern usage depending on your intended meaning. A warning: Depending on context your choice of emphasis may slightly alter the perceived meaning of your statement!

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And what order emphasizes what word? –  Peter Shor Jul 15 '13 at 10:27
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My latest five novels

This means the last five novels that you have written: no more and no less.

Five of my latest novels

This means that you are referring to five particular (but unspecified) novels selected from an unspecified number of your recent novels. This has the implications that:

  • You are not referring wholly to the five most recent novels. You might be referring, say, to the four most recent ones and one earlier one, but the combination is not specified. You might even not be including the most recent novel.
  • Additionally, the meaning of latest is unspecified and cannot be inferred from your statement. Other than the fact that it is a period going back implicitly to at least six novels ago (and probably more), we do not know whether my latest novels goes back 1 year, 3 years, 10 novels, 20 novels, or whatever - and a judgement can be made only by looking at your recent frequency of publication.

Finally, both expressions also carry the implication that you have published 'substantially more' than five novels in total, e.g. at least ten (but that number is for the reader to guess at).

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I've +1 your definition of "five of my latest novels" which had escaped my attention, but don't you think that it sounds weird to talk about five latest novels when the distance between each novel being written, and then published must take at least a year? Can we talk about something being latest when more than five years have passed? When we talk about the latest news from the Middle-East we don't think about 2011, do we? –  Mari-Lou A Jul 15 '13 at 14:32
    
@Mari-LouA I agree to some extent. I think "my 5 latest" is fine because it's merely comparative, even if it does go back 5 years. I did have some difficulty with time scale for "5 of my latest" - but it does not mean the same as "5 latest" and I tried to convey that. As regards overall time scales, not being a novelist, I have no idea but did think it would be rather longer term (and hence the expression is less useful and more vague), but I thought that some very prolific novel-writers could produce several per year?! (PS. Hope you've seen my response on Meta.) –  TrevorD Jul 15 '13 at 14:50
    
Sorry my question is misleading. I was, and am, not sure if it is grammatically correct to say " my latest five novels". Thanks all the same, TrevorD –  sxtySamsonn Jul 16 '13 at 9:29
    
It's grammatically correct (depending on your intended meaning). My five latest novels would have the same meaning and probably be a little more common. –  TrevorD Jul 16 '13 at 10:17
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Latest is usually used to say "the most recent" or "the newest" as in:

Their latest CD is due to be released next week.

and

Wilbur Smith's latest novel is about Hector Cross and his determination to protect his family from an African terrorist group.

To use a number greater than two with latest such as their latest five CDs or five of their latest CDs seems to contradict that meaning of "most recent" and "newest" although both grammatically correct.

In my opinion, I would use the adjective, last, which is commonly used to talk about a period of time up to the present but can also be used to talk about a series of things made, released, published or performed up to the present day for example:

Over the last 10 years we have travelled extensivley.

(possible construction) Five of Wilbur Smith's last novels speak about XXXX

My last five novels were published between XXX and XXX

Tom Cruise's last five movies have been box-office flops.

(I have no idea if this last statement is factually correct. I am merely giving an example, apologies to Mr Cruise!)

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