6

Suppose we have letters: a, b, c, d, e, f ,g.

I want to describe the position of letter "e" starting from right hand side, what should I use?

"e" is the last third letter.

"e" is the third last letter.

"e" is the last but two letters.

Which one is commonly used? Or other ways to describe it?

Thanks!

  • The only one of your suggestions which is right is "e" is the third last letter (though third from last is better.) For your third example, you could say "e" is the last letter but two (note letter is singular) but even then it is a little strange and confusing. Your first example "e" is the last third letter could only make sense if you wanted to say that there is a list of words of which you are interested in the third letter, and "e" is the third letter of the last word. English Language Learners stack exchange may be a better place for this question. – Level River St Sep 16 '14 at 9:35
22

Typically you'd expect to hear:

"e" is the third from last letter

or

"e" is the third to last letter

and you may sometimes hear

"e" is the last but two

  • It could also be "2 from last" and probably "second from last" depending on who you ask. – Jodrell Sep 15 '14 at 13:14
  • 1
    As a Brit, I would say 3rd from last. – xorsyst Sep 15 '14 at 15:27
  • 1
    I cede that "second from last" is more erroneous than ambiguous, but "2/two from last" clearly confuses things. – Jodrell Sep 15 '14 at 15:37
  • 1
    As a Brit, I’d would usually just say “the third last letter”, no preposition required. – PLL Sep 15 '14 at 19:06
  • 2
    You could also say "third from the end". – WinnieNicklaus Sep 16 '14 at 0:47
15

The common usage would be "third to last". If you need a weird word, use antepenultimate or propenultimate:

"Two before the last, i.e., the one immediately before the penultimate, in a series."

This book has ten chapters — chapter 8 is the antepenultimate one.

(From Wiktionary)

  • 2
    +1 for "if you need a weird word" :) – leemes Sep 15 '14 at 16:48
  • But antepenultimate doesn't generalize to other positions, does it? Can you keep adding prefixes, so the previous one is anteantepenultimate? – Barmar Sep 16 '14 at 1:35
  • 2
    @Barmar: preantepenultimate :-) – Antal Spector-Zabusky Sep 16 '14 at 5:01
  • (pre)antepenultimate tends to be used in linguistics when describing the position of stress in a word (or short phrase) so there has generally not been the need to invent a long series of these. I think propreantepenultimate would not be widely understood and I know of nothing earlier than that. – Francis Davey Sep 16 '14 at 8:30
2

Antepenultimate means before the next to last.

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