Let’s talk farther vs. further. You’ll see people using both farther and further to mean “more distant.” In American English, however, most speakers favor the word farther for physical distances and further for figurative distances.
It isn’t too surprising to learn that farther is defined as “at or to a greater distance.” Here’s an example of the word in context: While some boats floated ashore, others seemed to float farther and farther from land.
Aside from physical distance, the word farther also means “to a greater extent” or “to a more advanced point.” When a person stretches their arms outward to a greater extent, you could say they’re stretching out their arms farther, for example. You could also say that the farther you delve into a certain topic, the harder it is to return to your previous perspective.
So, what is the difference between further and farther? They do have overlapping definitions in some senses, but let’s take a closer look at further‘s definition. Unlike farther, further can function as a verb: She’d do anything to further her own plans.
The technical definition of further is “to aid in the progress of” or “to promote or move forward.” When used as an adverb, further is defined as “in addition to.” It can also be used as an adjective, meaning “more, extended, or addition.” For example, you could pursue further education or ask someone for further information. In addition, if you never face your fears, you could potentially make yourself susceptible to further attacks of fear in the future.
The Common Meanings of Farther and Further
We mentioned that the definitions of both words overlap, but let’s dig into the differences of farther vs. further a little more. Is it grammatically correct to use further or farther away in the same manner? It really depends on the usage guide. While some guides disagree that the words are interchangeable, the fact is that both terms have been used in the past to describe physical distance.
The Chicago Manual of Style turned to Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary to explain the difference between farther and further. It stated that while the words have been used interchangeably throughout much of history, they’re beginning to diverge in more recent years. When used as adverbs, farther and further continue to be used interchangeably in the case of metaphorical, temporal, and spatial distances. However, when distance isn’t involved, the word further is used. Here is the excerpt:
Farther or Further From the Truth
When something is completely untrue, what is the best way to express that idea? More specifically, is the term “farther from the truth” or “further from the truth?” Generally, further is used in this context. Consider the idea of the “popular kids” in school. Based on the dictionary definition of popularity, which is “to be liked by many,” you’d think that the popular kids would be the kindest and friendliest people around. However, if you’ve ever attended school, you’d probably think that conclusion couldn’t be further from the truth!
Here’s a trick to help you tell farther vs. further apart: Only the word further can mean “moreover.” Meanwhile, farther is typically associated with physical distance, and it contains the word far, which can help you remember when to use it correctly.
Here’s a short quiz to test your newfound knowledge of the two words. Don’t forget to use farther for physical distance; use further for other situations.
1. Jeff cycled farther/further than I did.
2. Jeff’s views are farther/further from mine than I had realized.
3. The diagram appears farther/further down the page.
4. The diagram gives farther/further information.
5. Let’s take this discussion a bit farther/further.
6. Let’s walk a bit farther/further.
Here are the answers: Farther in 1, 3, 6. Further in 2, 4, 5.
Related: We have a large selection of articles on similar-sounding words that often get confused. Here are a few to get you started: use to vs. used to, uncharted vs. unchartered, alright vs. all right, then and than.
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