Can "former" be used this way?

benjaminlee

Senior Member
Chinese
In London's East End, people, especially the elderly, are often ill-fed, ill-housed and ill-clad, as well as being plain ill. (BNC)
The former three adjectives are related to the external conditions of people's life, whereas the latter one is about internal condition of their life.

Can I use "former" this way, is there other better word to express this sort of meaning?
 
  • Sympathy

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    "The first three adjectives are ... whereas the last is ...". Use "former" and "latter" only for one thing each.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    What Sympathy says is right, except that "for one thing each" sounds confusing. Basically you should use "former" and "latter" only when there are two things, so "the former" means "the first of two" and "the latter" means "the second of two".
     

    benjaminlee

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    So, if there is only two adjectives in the original sentence, I can describe the sentence as "the former adjective....the latter adjective"..?

    I used to think that 'former' and ’latter‘ are applied to two things mentioned before, but not two words in a sentence, because to assign different time sequence to different words in a sentence sounds wrong. Words can be considered to be simultaneously coexistent in the mind.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    So, if there is only two adjectives in the original sentence, I can describe the sentence as "the former adjective....the latter adjective"..?

    I used to think that 'former' and ’latter‘ are applied to two things mentioned before, but not two words in a sentence, because to assign different time sequence to different words in a sentence sounds wrong. Words can be considered to be simultaneously coexistent in the mind.
    There is an intrinsic time-sequence to words in a sentence - when they are spoken (or read) happens at different times - that is what former and latter refer to.
     
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