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What is the difference between "ex" and "former"?

(C.K. Prem Kumar, Coimbatore)

Most dictionaries don't make a distinction between the two words. "Ex" is defined as "former" and "former" is defined as "ex"! So what is the difference between an "ex-Prime Minister" and a "former Prime Minister"? Some scholars argue that the word "ex" should be used with the immediate past incumbent. According to these individuals, there can be only one ex-Prime Minister of India. Who was the Prime Minister of India before Mr. Vajpayee? It was Mr. Gujral. So, he is the ex-Prime Minister of India. And all the others who preceded him — Mr. Nehru, Smt. Indira Gandhi, and Mr. Rajeev Gandhi — are the "former" Prime Ministers. A man may have several former wives, but only one ex-wife.

S. Upendran

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