The difference between ” former”, “previous” and “last”

This is about a TV drama series. My sentence is

“I prefer the last show to the current one.”

Can I use the previous one, or the former one instead of the last one?

Then how about one which was aired long before, but I’m not sure when? Can I say

“I prefer a previous one” or
“… a former one.”

Another example is about my coworker.
I quit the job, so she is not my coworker anymore. In that case, how do I refer to her—as my previous coworker, my former coworker or my old coworker? I looked these words up in the dictionary, but I’m not sure yet.


The word former refers to state. It means that the person or object was something, but no longer is. The word “former” only refers to sequence in special cases where it is contrasted with the word “latter” (in which it means the first of two given items).

The word previous refers to sequence. It means that the person or object was/did something before something else took over or replaced it. As StoneyB rightly clarifies in his comment, “the previous” means the directly preceding member in a series, however “a previous” can refer to any earlier member in the series.

The word last, in this context, means the same as “previous”, but is only used to refer to the immediately preceding item. (Jay warns that “last” can be ambiguous as it is also used to refer to the final entry in a series.)

Thus, you can say “former coworker” of someone who is no longer a coworker. However, the word “previous” means the one before the current, so saying “previous coworker” or “last coworker” does not make sense unless you had a coworker and they were replaced.

Referring to TV series, you can say that you preferred the “previous” or “last” show, and this would refer to the show immediately preceding the current show. You cannot say the “former” show in this context.

When referring to a show that aired earlier than the immediate previous, you can say “a previous show”. Otherwise, you can be more specific. Depending on the circumstances, you might say “the first show”, or “one of the earlier shows”, or “episode ten”, or simply “one of the older shows”. You could even say something like “five episodes earlier”.

Source : Link , Question Author : tennis girl , Answer Author : Stephan B

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