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penultimate

English translation: second-last (my 2p worth)

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11:41 Aug 7, 2004
English to English translations [PRO]
General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters
English term or phrase: penultimate
Inspired by Susana's question http://www.proz.com/kudoz/780747, I remembered I also need to solve a dispute between native speakers:
Do you say: second last, second to last, second from last or the three of them? (I don't want to say penultimate ALL the time).
Some say second to last sounds like not complete (to last what?), to me last sounds like a verb in this case.
On the other hand, second and last sound to me contradictory to each other.
It's been proved if I say something different from what somebody is used to saying, I won't be understood but there isn't a general consensus.
It's British English.
Opinions, please. Many thanks.
Javier Herrera
English translation:second-last (my 2p worth)
Explanation:
"Second to last", "next to last", "last but one", are also all possible. "Next to the last" does not have the right sense at all to my ear. You might say "I stood the new volume next to the last one", or something like that, but not "second to the last" in the sense of penultimate.

I would prefer to see a hyphen in "second-last". The other versions ought to be hyphenated too, when they're used attributively (immediately before the noun): "the next-to-last runner was more exhausted than the last". This (hyphenation of multi-word attributive adjectives)is a general rule, but it is largely ignored these days.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 21 mins (2004-08-07 15:02:37 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

I am more than a little sick of people quoting numbers of Google hits as though they were evidence of anything worth knowing. They are very good evidence of Google hit numbers, but of very little else.

Even if you accept these people\'s arguments, very often they omit to mention that the rival expression has many times more hits than their own.

In one case (\"hole puncher\" vs my suggestion \"hole punch\") there were over ten times as many hits for my suggestion as for its rival, which didn\'t stop the rival suggestor from asking \"can 11,200 Googles be wrong?\" In this case, there are over 5 times as many hits for \"next-to-last\" as for \"next-to-the-last\".

Google should be used for finding relevant pages, which should then be checked for credibility, which includes establishing the following:
Was the page written by a native speaker?
Was the author an expert in the field?
Are his/her spelling, grammar and usage generally correct?
Is he/she using the desired form of the target language?
As well as a host of other questions.

One good credible hit can outweigh millions of unverified hits. And a total absence hits for an expression doesn\'t prove it\'s wrong.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 26 mins (2004-08-07 15:07:14 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Sorry: \"absence *of* hits\".

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 40 mins (2004-08-07 15:21:33 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

I have just discovered that \"penultimate\" has 262,000 Google hits. So perhaps we should all give up these pretentious Anglo-Saxonisms and stuck to what comes naturally: penultimate.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 42 mins (2004-08-07 15:23:27 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Uhh, I seem to have sticky fingers tonight: that should be \"stick of cours. (Well, the keys are adjacent....)

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 4 days (2004-08-11 14:54:42 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

When you\'re talking about syllables, it is quite normal to call the second-last syllable the \"penultimate syllable\". It is not at all pretentious; it is standard. The third-last syllable is called the (wait for it) \"antepenultimate syllable\". To save syllables, the second-last syllable can also be called the \"penult\" and the third-last the \"antepenult\"--these being nouns, so that you can dispense with the word \"syllable\" altogether.
Selected response from:

Richard Benham
France
Local time: 23:40
Grading comment
Thanks for all the valuable information :)
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
5 +8next to last...
Marian Greenfield
5 +5last (....) but oneDavid Moore
5 +4the last but one
Paul Dixon
4 +5Next to the last or Last but one
Mihailolja
4 +4second-last (my 2p worth)
Richard Benham
3 +5next-to-last, last but onehirselina
5second to the lasteccotraduttrice
1 +3next to the last
chopra_2002


Discussion entries: 1





  

Answers


4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 1/5Answerer confidence 1/5 peer agreement (net): +3
next to the last


Explanation:
(Example: "The author inadvertently reveals the murderer in the penultimate chapter")

chopra_2002
India
Local time: 03:10
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in HindiHindi

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
disagree  Richard Benham: The "the" has got to go. As it stands, this would mean "adjacent to the last".//See note and reply to airmailpl's comment on my question on Google hits.
1 hr
  -> Thanks for ur comments.In fact the above suggestion is based on the information provided in an online dictionary. I am surprised if it contains misleading meaning.Of course, ur comment about Google hits makes sense as number of hits could be deceptive

agree  airmailrpl: -26,000 English pages for "Next to the last".
2 hrs
  -> Thank you!

agree  Saleh Chowdhury, Ph.D.
3 hrs
  -> Thank you!

agree  Iolanta Vlaykova Paneva
7 hrs
  -> Thank you!

disagree  Amy Williams: Richard is right - definitely no 'the'; //in your ref. "the next to the last"=noun.None of the actual examples use "the" ("next to last","next-to-last","the next to last")."In the next to the last chapter"=incorrect.It's not about refs;it's about usage.
21 hrs
  -> You may be right but please refer to the following link of an online dictionary which gives the above meaning of this word and also provides the above example:http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=penultimate

agree  Jörgen Slet: instinctively I myself would not use the "the", but lots of dictionaries seem to have it
23 hrs
  -> Thanks. Yes, you are right. A number of dictionaries contain "the"

agree  DGK T-I: eg: Mark Twain(US) http://mark-twain.classic-literature.co.uk/mark-twains-lette... (UK) http://www.bbc.co.uk/stoke/sport/cricket/2004/april.shtml (it can be done in lots of ways,depending on which sounds good in a given context)
1 day9 mins
  -> Thanks for the links
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4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +8
next to last...


Explanation:
... is most common

In the U.S., we also might say "second to last". As you can see, in UK "second last" is common, just as they would say "in hospital" and we would always say "in the hospital"...

Photo Manipulation
... line. Be sure to have the 'Show Highlight' option ticked. (second last
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Rugby news,fun and features from Rugby365.com
... I always tell my players that kicking is an easy option; I tell them that it is
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News Item
... (second last option bottom/right) Next select the 'Fill Tool (G)' (second
on the left) and click inside the area of your drawn edge selection. ...
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Welcome to CGarchitect.com
... The second last option is the glass option where you can control the transparency
of the glass and the tinting. Yes, you can even tint the windows! ...
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... NEXT" button. DIAGRAM 3. 4. Select the second last option, "SAPGui"
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... for you to disable the Internet update feature, click on options at the top of the
Red Master Menu, and click on the second last option, "Enable downloading of ...
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powerpoint and photo-objects - indezine.com - powerpoint ...
... However, we will not take that route, since you will end up losing all the mask
information this way - so choose the second last option called 'Graphics ...
www.indezine.com/products/powerpoint/pppobjects.html - 30k - Aug 5, 2004 - Cached - Similar pages

powerpoint ezine issue 28 - indezine.com: for presentations ...
... In all you can save to 28 formats - we'll choose WMF (it's the second last option)
since that's the best format to transport graphic content between Microsoft ...
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Marian Greenfield
Local time: 17:40
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 44

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  conejo: In the US we say "next to last", and I have never heard the word "penultimate" used.
2 mins

agree  airmailrpl: -
2 hrs

agree  Saleh Chowdhury, Ph.D.
3 hrs

agree  Richard Benham: but hyphens help
3 hrs

agree  Jörgen Slet
23 hrs

agree  Amy Williams
23 hrs

agree  DGK T-I: for me 'second to last' or 'the second to last'[chapter/to finish,etc] are more common in the UK.I find 'second last'unusual,but it's clear it is used despite that(:-) (like the common 'first right, second left, etc' in road directions)
1 day32 mins

agree  Refugio: Agree with next to last and second to last.
3 days6 hrs
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6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +5
Next to the last or Last but one


Explanation:
Sources: Longman and Chambers Dictionaries, although I would also use the following two :second to last, second from last

Mihailolja
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:40
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in UkrainianUkrainian

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Vicky Papaprodromou
22 mins
  -> thanks Vicky

agree  airmailrpl: Next to the last
2 hrs
  -> Thanks Airmailrpl

agree  Jörgen Slet
23 hrs
  -> Thanks Jorgen

agree  chopra_2002
1 day20 mins
  -> Thanks Langclinic

agree  DGK T-I: also
1 day23 mins
  -> Thanks Giuli
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24 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +5
last (....) but one


Explanation:
would be my way of saying it, as a British ENS.
(....) commonly to represent any noun of a series; last door, flight, car, shelf, etc., etc.

David Moore
Local time: 23:40
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 32

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Vicky Papaprodromou
5 mins

agree  Amy Williams
21 hrs

agree  Jörgen Slet
23 hrs

agree  DGK T-I: especially like 'last but one' (although IMO many ways of doing it)
23 hrs

agree  chopra_2002
1 day3 mins
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25 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +5
next-to-last, last but one


Explanation:
Others have asked the same question :-)

http://www.lydbury.co.uk/discus/messages/4714/6983.html?1051...


Penultimate: Literally: The last but one, i.e. the second syllable in a word of three syllables. eg
Grammar glossary http://www.lamp.ac.uk/classics/mathos/gloss.htm


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 29 mins (2004-08-07 12:10:57 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Catch a bus into the city centre, and either walk (1/2 mile) to the site or else catch the 77 park and ride bus and ask to be let off at the next-to-last stop.http://www.escience.cam.ac.uk/visiting.html (Cambridge eScience centre)

hirselina
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in FrenchFrench, Native in DutchDutch

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  airmailrpl: next-to-last
2 hrs

agree  Richard Benham: "Penultimate" is fine in prosody, philology, etc.
3 hrs

agree  Amy Williams
21 hrs

agree  Jörgen Slet
23 hrs

agree  DGK T-I: and eg: http://news.bbc.co.uk/solpda/ukfs_sport/hi/newsid_3930000/39... as a good eg.of non academic British'penultimate'(although perhaps better for racing than buses :-)
1 day3 mins
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5 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
second to the last


Explanation:
That's how I've always said and heard it.

eccotraduttrice
United States
Local time: 16:40
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Richard Benham: Don't forget: you're based in USA, and the question was specifically about UK English.
20 hrs
  -> oops, you're right! sorry about that.
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6 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +4
the last but one


Explanation:
This is my preferred form. "Second last" is also possible. "Penultimate" is very rare indeed, so best not used.

Paul Dixon
Brazil
Local time: 18:40
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in PortuguesePortuguese

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Amy Williams: I wouldn't say that "penultimate" was very rare, though
14 hrs

agree  Jörgen Slet
17 hrs

agree  chopra_2002
17 hrs

agree  Richard Benham: Yes, good. But "penultimate" gets more Googles... ;-)
18 hrs
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +4
second-last (my 2p worth)


Explanation:
"Second to last", "next to last", "last but one", are also all possible. "Next to the last" does not have the right sense at all to my ear. You might say "I stood the new volume next to the last one", or something like that, but not "second to the last" in the sense of penultimate.

I would prefer to see a hyphen in "second-last". The other versions ought to be hyphenated too, when they're used attributively (immediately before the noun): "the next-to-last runner was more exhausted than the last". This (hyphenation of multi-word attributive adjectives)is a general rule, but it is largely ignored these days.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 21 mins (2004-08-07 15:02:37 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

I am more than a little sick of people quoting numbers of Google hits as though they were evidence of anything worth knowing. They are very good evidence of Google hit numbers, but of very little else.

Even if you accept these people\'s arguments, very often they omit to mention that the rival expression has many times more hits than their own.

In one case (\"hole puncher\" vs my suggestion \"hole punch\") there were over ten times as many hits for my suggestion as for its rival, which didn\'t stop the rival suggestor from asking \"can 11,200 Googles be wrong?\" In this case, there are over 5 times as many hits for \"next-to-last\" as for \"next-to-the-last\".

Google should be used for finding relevant pages, which should then be checked for credibility, which includes establishing the following:
Was the page written by a native speaker?
Was the author an expert in the field?
Are his/her spelling, grammar and usage generally correct?
Is he/she using the desired form of the target language?
As well as a host of other questions.

One good credible hit can outweigh millions of unverified hits. And a total absence hits for an expression doesn\'t prove it\'s wrong.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 26 mins (2004-08-07 15:07:14 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Sorry: \"absence *of* hits\".

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 40 mins (2004-08-07 15:21:33 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

I have just discovered that \"penultimate\" has 262,000 Google hits. So perhaps we should all give up these pretentious Anglo-Saxonisms and stuck to what comes naturally: penultimate.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 3 hrs 42 mins (2004-08-07 15:23:27 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Uhh, I seem to have sticky fingers tonight: that should be \"stick of cours. (Well, the keys are adjacent....)

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 4 days (2004-08-11 14:54:42 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

When you\'re talking about syllables, it is quite normal to call the second-last syllable the \"penultimate syllable\". It is not at all pretentious; it is standard. The third-last syllable is called the (wait for it) \"antepenultimate syllable\". To save syllables, the second-last syllable can also be called the \"penult\" and the third-last the \"antepenult\"--these being nouns, so that you can dispense with the word \"syllable\" altogether.

Richard Benham
France
Local time: 23:40
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 20
Grading comment
Thanks for all the valuable information :)

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  airmailrpl: 26,000 English pages for "Next to the last". - you are in a really good mood today !!
53 mins
  -> And 26,100 for "dictionnary", 162,000 for "Brittany-Spears", 1,290,000 for "seperate"...don't waste my time!

agree  pidzej: equipmetn - 4000, equipments - 1,070,000, accomodation - 3m+. I too lament the disappearing hyphens: isn't a best case scenario the best of many somone has pulled from a suitcase?
1 hr
  -> Thanks. I hope you also appreciated my more general remarks about Google-hit counting.

agree  Amy Williams: I think it's the noun/adjective issue that's causing trouble here (e.g."the penultimate" (n.) is "the last but one" but "the penultimate (adj.) chapter" can't be "the last but one chapter".
19 hrs
  -> Thanks.

agree  Jörgen Slet
22 hrs
  -> Thanks.

agree  chopra_2002
1 day1 hr
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