Fourth vs. Forth – How to Use Each Correctly
What is the Difference Between Fourth and Forth?
Fourth and forth are homophones, which means their pronunciations are identical, yet their spellings and meanings are different.
Fourth is an adjective that means the ordinal number for four.
- Andy came in first, Sarah came in second, John came in third, and Robert came in fourth in the race.
Forth is an adverb which describes a forward movement.
- The dragon came forth from its lair.
Now, let’s go over the specific ways each word is used.
Using Fourth in a Sentence
When to use fourth: Fourth is an adjective that relates to the number four when describing the order of something.
- He had the fourth highest grade in the class.
- This is the fourth hurricane this year!
There are several common idioms and expression that use fourth:
- the fourth wall: the invisible barrier between performers and audiences
- Shows like The Office and Modern Family routinely break the fourth wall when the actors look directly into the camera, or even speak directly to the audience.
- the fourth estate: news journalism
- The Fourth Estate doesn’t officially have political power, but it certainly affects politics.
- Fourth of July: American Independence Day
- Many Americans celebrate their independence from the British on the Fourth of July by eating hot dogs and shooting off fireworks.
This word originated around the year 950.
Using Forth in a Sentence
When to use forth: Forth is an adverb that means either forward or onward.
- The witch tried to call forth a demon from the underworld.
- The army marched forth from the swamps and into the mountains.
There are also a few idioms using forth, some of which are below:
- and so forth: et cetera
- Her conversations are always so boring. She only talks about her errands, like doing the laundry, buying groceries, and washing the dishes, and so on, and so forth, blah blah blah.
- to burst forth: to emerge suddenly
- The arrow burst forth from the forest unexpectedly.
- back and forth: to alternate directions or perspectives
- They go back and forth between wanting to adopt and wanting to have a biological child.
Most examples in conversation and news use forth within the expression back and forth. This word originated around the year 900.
Remembering Fourth vs. Forth
The easiest way to remember the difference between fourth and forth is to look at the spelling of each word.
Fourth starts with the letters four, which shows the direct connection to the number four.
Likewise, forth starts with the letters for, which shows the direct relationship to the word forward.
- Judge, who leads the majors with 34 home runs, returned to the lineup after a day off. He singled in the first, walked in the fourth and fifth and struck out in the eighth. New York’s star rookie is batting .174 (12 for 69) with 30 strikeouts since the All-Star break and has struck out in 22 consecutive games. –USA Today
- Heather Piña, who was born in Maryland on the Fourth of July, went to the White House in April to protest President Trump’s immigration policies. She was 8 at the time. –Washington Post
- “We want to make sure China is continuing to implement fully the sanctions regime,” Thornton told reporters in Manila. “Not this kind of episodic back and forth that we’ve seen.” –Houston Chronicle
- On July 19, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration’s travel ban to stand, leaving about 100 unaccompanied minor refugees stranded overseas. The decision comes after months of judicial back-and-forth over the ban, casting doubt on the children’s plans to live in the United States. –Denver Post
Quiz: Forth vs. Fourth
Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either forth or fourth, in the correct form.
- The bat burst _____________ from the cave before anyone realized what was happening.
- She can’t make up her mind on whether or not she wants to marry him. She keeps going back and ____________ on the issue.
- Do you have any plans for the ____________ of July?
- She is disappointed because she thought she would win first place but she actually placed _____________.
Should I use fourth or forth? Despite the identical pronunciation of these two words, there is no overlap in meaning between them.
- Fourth is an adjective that refers to the ordinal meaning of the number four.
- Forth is an adverb that refers to forward movement.
Be careful not to mix up these two words.