Grammar Rules: Further and Farther

grammar rules farther further

Is it farther away or further away? Get the grammar rules here.

Believe it or not, farther and further each have distinctly different meanings although people tend to use them interchangeably.

And it’s no surprise, because these two words look alike, sound alike, and the difference in meaning is quite subtle. Plus, there are a few circumstances when they are legitimately interchangeable.

Let’s solve the farther, further mystery for once and for all.

Farther


The word farther deals with physical distance, which can be measured. One way to remember this is to recall the phrase “far away.”

Examples include:

  • I jog a little farther each day.
  • Do you live farther away from the city now?
  • The library is farther from my house than the bookstore.

Notice that in all of these examples, the word farther refers to a distance that can be measured.

Further

Further also deals with distance, but not in the physical sense. We use further when we’re talking about figurative distance or a general advancement. Further also indicates a greater degree of something. Some terms that are synonymous with further include furthermore, moreover, and in addition.

Here are examples of how to use further correctly in a sentence:

  • I’ll be delving further into the topic at a later date.
  • I am further along in my holiday shopping than I was last year at this time.
  • Further, I intend to finish my shopping before the end of the week.

Notice that in these sentences, further refers to distances that cannot be measured.

Farther / Further

In some cases, you can use either of these words, especially when the distinction isn’t clear. For example, if you are discussing a book, you could argue that there is physical distance between the pages that can be measured. However, since the distance between pages is not geographical in nature, usage of farther or further is ambiguous. When it’s not completely clear which word to use, you can choose either one, though it’s usually safer to go with further because it has less restriction that its cousin.

  • I’m further along in the book than other members of my book club.
  • The other members of my book club are further along in the book than I am.

If you have any tips for remembering how to correctly use the words farther and further, then please do tell!

Do you have  questions about grammar rules? Are there any word pairs that confound you? Leave a comment with your suggestions for grammar topics!

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Comments

18 Responses to “Grammar Rules: Further and Farther”

  1. Yvonne Root says:

    Thank you, Melissa

    I think I once knew this distinction then mislaid my knowledge. And recently I’ve wondered about the difference.

    The other one I have the most trouble with is effect and affect.

  2. SK Waller says:

    Thanks for this concise, no-frills explanation. I’ll never confuse the two again!

  3. Wow! Thank you! I have very few grammar issues, but this is actually one that I stumble on. The “furthermore” trick will be perfect.

  4. Kiwi says:

    Thanks for that. I think they actually covered it on Battlestar Galactica (one of the Sharon cylons) but I forgot the distinction.

  5. Patti Hale says:

    I don’t remember learning this distinction although it may be I did but in my old age just forgot it ;-) Thanks for the reminder/lesson, whichever the case may be, lol!

  6. Gabbi says:

    My “tip” for remembering how to correctly use the words farther and further is “use a dictionary or Google it”. Why waste brain cells on some “remembering” trick? If you forget it, just look it up in the dictionary or on Google again – do that enough times and you’ll eventually just “know” it anyway. Especially now you have such a clear and basic overall understanding based on the above great post (I DID like it very much – it is well done – a rare thing on the subject of grammar I tell you)! I have mentioned and quoted this posting and your site on my new blog – http://rulesofgrammar.co/what-is-with-today-another-good-grammar-site/ – hope you don’t mind. I have subscribed to your email list and look forward to taking the time to read all the articles on your site and any new ones you post.

  7. Sunni says:

    I want to know if “you’re welcome either” is correct?
    Thanks in advance ^^
    Now I know the farther & further
    Thanks for the info..

  8. Ian C. says:

    Is there any historical basis for this distinction? Or was it invented at some later point, well after both pronunciations came into use–originally with precisely the same application? To offer two additional examples: the variant pronunciations of “roof” and “creek” came about in a way similar to the “further/farther” alternation. But we don’t usually assume that each pronunciation means something different. For instance, do we apply “creek” to small, peaceful streams, and “crick” to larger, more turbid ones (except perhaps in jest)? If “people tend to use them interchangeably,” why bother to invent and then try to enforce artificial distinctions such as this one?

    • All I can say is that language evolves naturally. Nobody sat down and decided that there would be a “farther” and a “further.” It just happened. They do have separate meanings, so separate words seem warranted.