For example, the phrase:

I should quit trying to go to the gym on Fridays, and maybe Wednesdays and Mondays, and go on Thursdays plus any of the latter two.

What the speaker is trying to say is that although on Fridays is definitely not possible to go, Mondays and Wednesdays are likely (but not always) along with Thursdays.

Probably the last two is better or the correct way but using latter sounds not so wrong to me.

  • 3
    It would, at best, be exceedingly confusing.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 20, 2017 at 13:22

3 Answers 3


Former means “the first of two” and latter means “the second of two.” Notice that you should use these terms when speaking of only two previously mentioned items. If the options include three or more, former and latter do not apply.

Relevant question.

  • We use latter to refer to the second of two persons or things that have been mentioned. When more than two have been mentioned, we use last. For example: He preferred oranges to apples, because the latter were not as juicy.He saw Leathal Weapon 1, 2, and 3 and liked the last one most May 8, 2015 at 10:55
  • 3
    We use latter also to mean "more recent" in a time series. "In the latter stages of his life he devoted more time to spiritual matters."
    – Robusto
    May 8, 2015 at 11:26
  • 2
    In the example given in the question here, there are only two previously mentioned items: one is “Fridays”, and the other is “Wednesdays and Mondays”. The reason that former and latter don’t work here is that they imply each other: the items compared must be comparable and of equal types. If there is a ‘latter two’, there must also be a ‘former two’, and there isn’t here. May 8, 2015 at 11:36
  • I think Gokul's answer is correct in the sense that it states the rule for using latter and former but it doesn't address the specific (probably too specific) case of having pairs of items. On the other hand, I think what @Janus say sounds correct to me as well. A combination of both would be the answer to my question I would choose, but all in all the usage of former and latter is clear. Thank you all.
    – Ichbalanke
    May 12, 2015 at 15:10
  • 1
    Woefully inadequate answer. I hope someone fixes this. The deleted answer is actually a better answer. either of the latter
    – Phil Sweet
    Dec 30, 2019 at 12:18

I am not a not a native speaker, but this should make things pretty clear:

the second of two people, things, or groups previously mentioned.

Cambridge Dictionary

Occasionally I see it used as a synonymous of last, but this is uncommon.


First, apologies for often starting sentences with lower case, its because I find upper case letters a bit tedious.

I can say: of the cat, the bat and the dove, the latter two can fly and the former two are mammals, although usually you'd say "the first two are mammals".

Basically there is an equivalent of latter two, namely former two.

Latter just means the most recent and former means superceded.

the two words are NOT proper opposites, they are only partially opposite.

former just means superceded. "former" often means "used to be", eg "a former president" means "someone who used to be president".

the latter two literally means the most recent or last two of a presented set. either textually or chronologically most recent. and the former two literally means THE earlier two, if this is ambiguous then you should use some other construct. Because the word "THE" means its unambiguous. so eg you can say "Jimmy Carter is A former president of the US" but you wont say "Jimmy Carter is THE former president of the US". "The former president of the US means the most recent person who used to be president, eg tomorrow (21st jan 2017) Obama will be THE former president of the US"

You can certainly say "Churchill and Thatcher were former prime ministers of the UK", I can assure you there have been much more than two former prime ministers! You can also just about get away with saying "Cameron, Blair and May are latter prime ministers", here meaning "some" of the most recent. But if there is any element of confusion use a different choice of words, eg if you mean "most recent" then say "most recent" eg "Cameron, Blair and May are some of the more recent prime ministers of the UK", is an accurate and unambiguous statement.

It annoys me when non native speakers try to give grammar lessons, because they are invariably wrong as english is a very subtle language and isnt based on grammar but is based on current usage by people who live in the territory relevant to the form of english in question: grammar is derived from usage! usage is absolutely not derived from grammar, this is where non native speakers flounder around, as they try to use grammar as the starting point, which is a no no! grammar gradually changes with time.

There are lots of professional publication examples of "latter two" here: https://glosbe.com/en/en/the%20latter%20two

If there are 3 or more items, you dont say "the former" without specifying number, but instead say eg "the first", because as explained earlier, the word "the" means there is only one choice, although "the" can mean the most recent option. Basically avoid usages that can be misinterpreted. eg its ok to say "Obama met with 3 former presidents of the US". "the latter 3 presidents of the US" would mean the 3 most recent ones, but its better to say "the 3 most recent (possibly still serving) presidents" to totally disambiguate what you mean.

so with the earlier example (the cat, the bat and the dove) you dont say "the former likes milk" but you say the first likes milk, and the last likes crumbs. To refer to the bat, its best just to say "the second last". "penultimate" also means second last.

"former" DOESNT mean "first of two" but means "superceded" eg we can say "Jimmy Carter is a former president of the US", there are more than 2 US presidents and he certainly isnt the first! so that idea is just totally wrong.

The word "a" means he is one of the superceded (used to be but arent now) presidents, but we dont specify which one. so any previous president is a former president.

another example: I met with some of my friends from a former school I attended. that could be the 2nd of 4 schools.

"latter" DOESNT mean "last of two" but literally means "the most recent", eg "the latter day saints". in university lectures they sometimes say things like:

the latter 3 examples were discovered by one of my students.

  • 5
    I find your answer too tedious to read. If you want to communicate with other people, make an effort to conform to the established standards. Also, your opinions of other people's qualifications are of no interest here. Jan 20, 2017 at 13:37

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