David has a Master's in English literature. He has taught college English for 5+ years.
Later or Latter?
What is the difference between 'later' and 'latter'? Is there even a difference?
These are questions plenty of writers have had, as 'later' and 'latter' are similar-sounding words that also have somewhat similar meanings. The most important way to tell them apart is by looking at their parts of speech. A word's part of speech is the job it does in a sentence, which also usually determines its place in a sentence.
'Later' and 'latter' are different parts of speech. 'Later' is an adverb, which means it modifies verbs, adjectives, and groups of words. 'Latter', on the other hand, is an adjective, which means it modifies and describes nouns. So let's take a closer look at both.
Later as an Adverb
So what does it mean that 'later' is an adverb? While adverbs modify or describe verbs, adjectives, and groups of words, 'later' is most often used with verbs. It is used to indicate that the action of the verb happened after some other event or will happen in the future. Let's see it in action:
- The contestant was nervous, and she later explained she thought she was going to be sick. (modifies 'explained')
- Do you want to come over for dinner later? (modifies 'come')
- We are going to the movies later. (modifies 'going')
- I will see you later. (modifies 'see')
- I am going out for frozen yogurt after the game, so I will get home later than you. (modifies 'get')
Latter as an Adjective
While 'later' modifies verbs, 'latter' does the same for nouns. It is used to describe the second item in a list or make a comparison. A good way to know when to use 'latter' is to look for a pair or list of items in the sentence. Let's check it out:
- Mom said we could have pizza or tacos for dinner, so I chose the latter. (tacos)
- I got accepted to Harvard, Princeton, and Yale and decided to attend the latter. (Yale)
- Jim worked as a janitor and a barista. The latter job was his favorite. (barista)
- I went to the store to buy milk, eggs, and cheese, but I forgot the latter. (cheese)
- If given the choice between an essay and a multiple-choice test, most students choose the latter. (multiple-choice)
'Later' and 'latter' are often confused with each other because they look similar and have somewhat similar meanings. But they have different jobs in a sentence, otherwise known as their parts of speech. 'Later' is an adverb that describes verbs, adjectives, and groups of words. It is usually used with a verb to indicate the action is happening after another event or in the future. 'Latter' is an adjective that describes nouns. It is used to refer to the last item in a comparison or list.
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