‘Fourth' or 'Forth': What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on January 13, 2023

If you've ever wondered whether you should be using 'fourth' or 'forth,' you've come to the right place. This article will review the meaning of each word.

In short, 'fourth' is number four in a series, and 'forth' means to go forward.

Difference Between 'Fourth' or 'Forth'

So what's the difference between these two words? After all, they are pretty similar. First of all, they sound exactly the same, which makes them homonyms. There are many homonyms in the English language. Here are just a few:

While homonyms may sound the same, they are spelled differently and mean different things. 'Fourth' and 'forth' are entirely separate parts of speech and have distinct etymologies.

So let's take a deeper look at the meaning of each one.

'Fourth' Definition

'Fourth' is an adjective and is an ordinal number, so when something is 'fourth,' it means it's number four in a series. Three things would therefore precede it. You might also see it spelled "4th".

A 'fourth' is also a fraction that describes a quarter. It's also a music interval.

'Forth' Definition

'Forth' is an adverb you use if you want to talk about something or someone moving forward in time or space.

Another meaning of the word is if something is 'forth,' it becomes noticeable.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Fourth'

Now you know the meaning of each word, would you like to know how to pronounce them? The great thing is that with them being homonyms, they're both pronounced the same.

Here's how the International Phonetic Alphabet dictates their pronunciation:


And they sound like this:


How to Use 'Fourth' or 'Forth'

How about we take a look at some examples of the two words used in sentences? This will help you understand them in context and go forth using them on your own (see what we did there?).

We'll start with 'fourth.'

He came fourth in the competition, which wasn't what he was aiming for, but he was still proud of himself for entering.

That's the fourth balloon you've popped! None will be left for the party if you keep going like this.

Since there are four of us, we can each have one-fourth of the cake.

We're hosting a dinner next Friday for July Fourth.

This is my fourth day with COVID, so I should be on the mend soon.

Now let's take a look at some examples using 'forth.'

He and I have been going back and forth on the issue for months. I'm exhausted!

Okay, I'll speak with her. Call her forth.

You're a strong person, Jenny, and now would be a great time to call forth that strength.

Our tree is putting forth a lot more leaves than last year.

You whisper into your neighbor's ear, who whispers it into his neighbor's ear, who whispers it into her neighbor's ear, and so forth.

The Bottom Line with 'Fourth' or 'Forth'

There's an easy way to remember which spelling to use. If you're talking about numbers, you should use a 'u' spelling because 'four' has a 'u' in it. But remember that if you're ever in doubt, you can always come back to this article to double-check.

Remember to check out our blog, where we've covered many other confusing words, including a bunch of homonyms.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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