Look at the extract below, which is taken from a Reading about the nutmeg tree and its fruit:
‘The tree is thickly branched with dense foliage of tough, dark green oval leaves, and produces small, yellow, bell-shaped flowers and pale yellow pear-shaped fruits’.
‘Inside is a purple-brown shiny seed surrounded by a lacy red covering called an ‘aril’. These are the sources of the two spices nutmeg and mace, the former being produced from the dried seed and the latter from the aril’.
Now complete these two gapfill statements (one word only):
3. The _______ is used to produce nutmeg.
4. The covering known as the aril is used to produce _____________.
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What does ‘the former, the latter’ mean?
The former = the first thing mentioned
The latter = the last thing mentioned
Why do we use ‘the former, the latter’?
Simply to avoid repetition.
It’s quite formal, and you can use it in your Writing Task 1 and Task 2 for the same purpose (see below).
Practice: True, False, Not Given
This is taken from a Reading about spelling.
‘He asked me to write a book about correct spelling and why it matters. The former is easy to do. The latter, being a matter for debate, is less straightforward.’
True, False, Not Given?
- It is difficult to explain why correct spelling is important.
‘He asked me to write a book about 1. correct spelling and 2. why it matters’.
The former (1. correct spelling) is easy to do.
The latter (2. why spelling matters)… is less straightforward.
difficult = less straightforward
is important = it matters
How to use ‘the former/latter’ in Writing
1. As an alternative to ‘respectively’ e.g.
Sales increased in both France and Germany, by 50% and 70% respectively.
Sales increased in both France and Germany, the former by 50% and the latter by 70%.
2. You can use ‘the latter half’ to mean the ‘second half’ e.g.:
Sales went up significantly in the latter half of the decade.
3. You can use it refer back to two options given in Task 2 e.g.
Solar power and tidal power are both suitable alternatives, but I favour the former/the latter.
Of these two options, the former is less expensive, while the latter is less risky.
Do you have any examples?
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Get more Reading tips here.
- How to manage your time in the IELTS Reading Test.
- How to answer True/False/Not Given questions
- How to match headings to paragraphs
- How to match statements to people
- How to do gapped summaries
- How to use text structures – a ‘discursive’ structure
- How to use text structures – a ‘chronological’ structure
- How to manage your time better in the IELTS Reading Test