Further vs Farther
Further and farther are two words that look and sound very similar and which have almost identical meanings. For that reason, it’s easy to get them mixed up in both speech and writing. In short, further and farther both mean to a greater distance or extent. However, farther means a greater distance in a literal, physical sense i.e. it can be measured, whereas further is a greater figurative or metaphorical distance. Both words can be used as adverbs or adjectives. Frankly, mixing them up is probably not the biggest mistake you can make, as the rules around further and farther have become something of a gray area in modern language. But knowing the difference and using the words correctly is nevertheless important.
The simple definitions of further and farther are both terms that mean more far, which is a grammatically incorrect phrase (that’s why we use further/farther) but does offer a succinct explanation of the definitions. Anyway, let’s look at the common dictionary definitions:
- Farther = (adverb/adjective) at or to a greater distance or more advanced point.
- Further = (adverb/adjective) to a greater degree or extent.
- We will travel 10 miles farther on the highway, then we will stop.
- How much farther to New York, Dad?
- The farther north we go, the colder it gets.
- We will go no further with this conversation.
- The family plunged further into debt that year.
- I’d like to go a little further into the details tomorrow.
- It’s not always clear when we mean a physical or non-physical distance.
- We got no farther than the third page, then gave up.
- I will go no further with James Joyce’s Ulysses – it’s obscene.
- Dictionaries and style guides sometimes give further and farther the same definitions and rules.
- “My ponies are tired, and I have further to go.”
- “See to it that I don’t have to act any farther in the matter.”
When to Use Further?
- While we have pointed out some of the complexities and gray areas above, the common rule is to use further when speaking of a figurative or non-physical distance. Consider the statement below:
- John will go far in life, but David, who is smarter, will go further. However, Jenny is a genius, and will go furthest of all the children.
- Congress will proceed no further with the bill until after the election.
- Don’t go any further with Shakespeare’s later works until you have read Macbeth.
- The fear was that Iran and Iraq would plunge further into conflict.
- For further reading on the subject, have a look at these articles.
- I will give you some further instructions on the matter after dinner.
- The actor’s performance raised further doubts about his talents.
- I furthered my knowledge of French by reading Le Monde each day I was in Paris.
- Mandela gave an electrifying speech, furthering the hopes of a divided nation.
- Further to what you said earlier, I would also like to add an amendment.
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When to use Farther?As we have seen, farther is used when we are speaking of a physical distance, one that can be measured. Consider once again the statement below:
- John will go far in this hike, but David, who has just started training for his trip to Everest, will probably go farther. However, Jenny is the most experienced hiker and will undoubtedly go farthest up the mountain.
Examples of Farther Farther is mostly used as an adverb to indicate something is at a greater distance or more advanced point:
- Which is farther from here, Tokyo or Sydney?
- I’d like to walk one mile farther today, but I’m too tired.
- She refused to go one step farther until she had a drink.
- The cinema is on the farther side of town.
- It was farther to the end of the field than it seemed.
- The Celts were from farther north than the Saxons.