Grammar 101: ‘Latter’ or ‘Last’

When do I use latter or last?

We are all familiar with the idea of something being good, something else being better, and a third thing being the best.

Good is the positive form of the adjective, better is the comparative form and best is the superlative form.

So what’s this got to do with the difference between ‘latter’ and ‘last’?

Well, when we are faced with choosing between the ‘latter’ or ‘last’, we are deciding between using the comparative and the superlative forms of the word late (the thing just mentioned).

Good vs better

Just as we use better when comparing two things, we use latter in the same situation.

For example:

  • Of the two books I read this month, I prefer the latter.
  • The second book I read was better than the first.
  • Of the two candidates, Helene is the better qualified.
  • The latter of the two candidates was the better qualified.

Good, better, best

We also know that best is used when three or more things are being compared  so we use also last when we are comparing three or more things.

  • Of the six books I read this month, I prefer the last.
  • The last book of the six I read was the best.
  • Of the six candidates, Helene is the best qualified.
  • The last of the six candidates was the best qualified.

One way to remember is to note that ‘better’ and ‘latter’ have the same ‘er‘ ending and that ‘best’ and ‘last’ also share and ending – ‘st‘.

And if it all gets too hard, just remember the saying:

  • The lesser of two evils

All the very best!

For a quick cheat sheet on this, click here.

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