Tim Bowen proves that his articles on word grammar are second to none.
Apart from its normal uses as a noun and an ordinal number, the word second also functions as an adverb (to mean secondly) and as a verb. With the stress on the first syllable, the verb to second means to support officially a proposal made by another person in a meeting, as in ‘Would anyone like to second that proposal?’ In spoken English, it is also used in the expression ‘I’ll second that’, which is used to tell someone that you agree with what they are saying.
With the stress on the second syllable, the verb to second is used in British English to mean to send someone to work temporarily in another place, as in ‘She’s been seconded to work in the Foreign Office’.
Second is also used as a noun or a number in several expressions. Examples include a close second, meaning almost as successful as someone else, as in ‘The Socialists came a close second with 36% of the vote’; second to none, meaning ‘the best’, as in ‘They provide a service that is quite simply second to none’; and on second thoughts, used to indicate that you want to change something you have just said, as in ‘We don’t need an umbrella. On second thoughts, may we do’.
The expression second only to means next in quality or importance to someone or something that is the best in a particular category, as in ‘In terms of his goal-scoring record, he’s second only to Davies’.
In the plural, seconds can be used to mean a second helping of food that you have just eaten, as in ‘Does anybody want any seconds?’