English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Possible Duplicate:
Equivalent of “former” and “latter” for more than 2 items

Can I use "the latter" to refer to the last name from a list of names that is more than 2? Or should there be only 2 in the list? I.e.:

Paul, Nick, John. The latter is John.

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by Ed Guiness, Robusto, b.roth, RegDwigнt Apr 4 '11 at 15:43

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Yes, you can! According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the 2nd meaning of 'latter': 2 : of, relating to, or being the second of two groups or things or the last of several groups or things. This also puzzled me, a non-native speaker in the beginning. – HongboZhu Mar 4 '14 at 12:10
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Latter is related to the comparative 'later'. Since it is comparative and not superlative, it cannot be used for lists longer than 2.

When wishing to refer to the last of a longer list, simply use 'last'.

share|improve this answer

I would say no. Latter generally refers to the second of two. I would use last in this case.

share|improve this answer

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