Later and Latter

Commonly Confused Words

later and latter
Andrea Lunsford, The St. Martin's Handbook (2011). (Getty Images)

The words later and latter look similar, but their meanings aren't quite the same.

Definitions

The adverb later means after a particular time or any time after the present. Later is also the comparative form of the adjective late.

The adjective latter means occurring at or near the end of an activity. Latter also refers to the second of two persons or things already mentioned.

Also see: Commonly Confused Words: Last and Latter.


Examples

  • Though Amy said that she would join me later, I never saw her again.
     
  • "The porch light went out, then the light in the hall. A second later, a light went on upstairs at the side of the house, shining into a tree that was still covered with leaves."
    (John Cheever, "The Country Husband." The New Yorker, 1955)
     
  • "Sacajawea in her younger days seems, as you state, to have had her full share of trouble, but in her old age she was more fortunate. Her latter years on the reservation were passed in peace and plenty."
    (Reverend John Roberts quoted by Grace Raymond Hebard in Sacajawea, A Guide and Interpreter of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1939)

     
  • "There are two kinds of worries: those you can do something about and those you can't. Don't spend any time on the latter."
    (attributed to Duke Ellington)

     
  • "[I]f we're worried about the longer-term implications of current policies, the buildup of greenhouse gases is a much bigger deal than the accumulation of low-interest debt. It’s bizarre to talk about the latter but not the former."
    (Paul Krugman, "What About the Planet?" The New York Times, October 7, 2016)
     

    Idiom Alerts

    • Sooner or Later
      The expression sooner or later means eventually or at some unspecified time in the future.
      "The boy was looking at the dead roadside trees. It's okay, the man said. All the trees in the world are going to fall sooner or later. But not on us."
      (Cormac McCarthy, The Road. Knopf, 2006)
       
    • Catch You Later
      The expression catch you (or see you) later means "Goodbye for now, but I will see you again at some later time."
       

      "'I’m going to call your grandmother later on this morning to see if I can stop over. When is a good time to call?'

      "'Anytime, she’s an early riser. Probably been up for hours already.'

      “'Still, I think I’ll wait till nine or so.'

      "'Cool. I’ll catch you later, girl. Tell Nana I said hi.'

      "'Will do,' I said and disconnected."
      (Victoria Laurie, A Vision of Murder. Signet, 2005)

    Practice

    (a) "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the ______."
    (Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787)

    (b) "A little _____ that afternoon, when George had done his chores and finished his homework, he decided to go back next door."
    (Stephen Hawking and Lucy Hawking, George and the Big Bang. Simon & Schuster, 2012)
     

    Answers to Practice Exercises

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

    Answers to Practice Exercises: Later and Latter

    (a) "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
    (Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787))

    (b) "A little later that afternoon, when George had done his chores and finished his homework, he decided to go back next door."
    (Stephen Hawking and Lucy Hawking, George and the Big Bang, 2012)

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words