Forth vs. Fourth: How to Choose the Right Word

Would you need a "forth" or a "fourth" for a bridge game?

forth and fourth

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The words "forth" and "fourth" are homophones: They are pronounced the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings and etymologies, although both have Old English roots.

How to Use "Forth"

The adverb "forth" means moving forward in time, place, or order. It also means simply "to the forefront" when paired with verbs such as "bring," "come," and "put." The expression and so forth is equivalent to "and more of the same" or "etc.," whereas to hold forth means to go on talking for a long time, and to set forth means to give a detailed written or oral account of something. The Forth is also the name of a river in south-central Scotland.

How to Use "Fourth"

The adjective "fourth" refers to the ordinal number corresponding to four and situated between "third" and "fifth" For example, he's "fourth in line at the bakery." In baseball, batting fourth refers to the cleanup hitter, typically the best batter on the team who's most likely to hit a home run and bring any players who are on first, second, or third base home. A fourth is also a musical interval, and a fourth gear is usually found in automatic and standard transmissions.

The noun "fourth" refers to the fourth day of any month. July 4, Independence Day in the United States, is often referred to as the Fourth. "Fourth" can also refer to a fraction, as in one-quarter, or the last person of four to join a card game.

Examples

The following examples show some of the uses of "forth":

  • Sofia loved to hold forth (talk at length) about European history whenever she got the chance.
  • The expectant father paced back and forth (backward and forward) in the waiting room.
  • The third speaker was Eleanor, who set forth (expressed) her ideas on addressing the town's budget woes.
  • Michael began to talk about his past in detail, including his childhood, teenage years, young adulthood, and so forth (and the rest).

"Fourth" is used as an adjective, adverb, or noun in these examples:

  • Jake's fourth grade (grade 4) class was assigned to draw something interesting that may be found inside the home.
  • At the game, Steve was the cleanup hitter, batting fourth (batter No. 4) in the top of the ninth inning with runners on first and third.
  • At the last minute, Susan arrived to make a fourth (player No. 4) at bridge.
  • Will you be watching fireworks on the Fourth (July 4)?
  • We split the cost of dinner, with each of us paying a fourth (25 percent) of the tab.

How to Remember the Difference

The simplest way to remember the difference between "forth" and "fourth" is that "forth" means "forward" and there's no "u" in "forward," whereas "fourth" is always associated with the number 4.

Sources

  • “Forth | Definition of Forth in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English, Oxford Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/forth.
  • “Fourth.” American Heritage Dictionary Entry: Fourth, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=fourth.