Believe it or not, the words further and farther have 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 subtle. Plus there are a few circumstances when they are legitimately interchangeable.
Let’s solve the further vs. farther mystery once and for all.
The word farther deals with physical distance, which can be measured. One way to remember this is to recall the phrase “far away.”
- I jog a little farther each day.
- Do you live farther 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 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.
Further vs. Farther
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 further vs. farther 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 than 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 further and farther, please share by leaving a comment!
Do you have questions about any grammar rules? Are there any word pairs, like further vs. farther, that confound you? Leave a comment!