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She is my old friend.
She is my former friend.
She is my old business partner.
She is my former business partner.

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  • 1
    A short answer to 'always interchangeable' - NO!
    – Maulik V
    Jan 9, 2015 at 5:52
  • 2
    No: my old grandmother is not my former grandmother!
    – Stephie
    Jan 9, 2015 at 8:10

2 Answers 2

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No. Both are adjectives, but 'old' can be used as a noun as well:

appropriations to care for the old.

And not

appropriations to care for the former.

"Former" comes only before noun. Say,

The beautiful old building has been restored to its former glory.

And not

The beautiful old building has been restored to its old glory.

Furthermore, we can't write "The beautiful former building" as well.

Now, in your example, "old friend" and "old business partner" show continuity of friendship and partnership, while "former friend" and "former business partner" show that once you had a friendship or partnership, but now you don't have the same.

Hope this would help.

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In the examples provided, "old" and "former" are not interchangeable.

An "old friend" is a friend from a long time ago. You can continue to be friends with them.

A "former friend" used to be your friend, but is not any longer. The friendship might have been recent.

An "old business partner" might be a business partner from a long time ago, or might be an old person that is your business partner. You can continue to be business partners with them.

A "former business partner" used to be your business partner, but is not any longer. The partnership might have been recent.

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