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 and sound similar, 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!
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.
Hi, Yvonne, I wrote about affect and effect a while back. Hope that helps.
How about when the distance is a distance in time? “Barry and I go way back. No, farther/further than that!
Distance in time should use further. Although time can be measured, it’s a human construct, not a physical distance.
I too am wondering which word to use with a time measurement. Does one have to go further or farther into the month to find a suitable date? Days would be the unit of measurement. I do not think time, measured in days, hours, years, seconds, etc, is a man made construct, any more than distance measured in miles or meters. Time can be a measurable unit when plotting a graph.
Thanks for this concise, no-frills explanation. I’ll never confuse the two again!
Wow! Thank you! I have very few grammar issues, but this is actually one that I stumble on. The “furthermore” trick will be perfect.
I’m glad you found it helpful!
Thanks for that. I think they actually covered it on Battlestar Galactica (one of the Sharon cylons) but I forgot the distinction.
Hm, I don’t remember that episode, but I’d love to find a clip of it.
It’s an early episode where she’s talking to Helo on Caprica (I think). BTW – I’d love you to cover who/whom.
I’ve covered who/whom in a post titled Grammar Rules: Who vs. Whom. Hope you find it helpful.
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!
You’re welcome, Patti.
I want to know if “you’re welcome either” is correct?
Thanks in advance ^^
Now I know the farther & further
Thanks for the info..
I would need more context to determine whether the phrase is correct. I’d like to see it in a sentence or paragraph.
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 different meanings, so different words are warranted.
Lately, i have heard the phrase “going farther” to mean “in the future” or “next
time”. I’ve heard this mostly by politicians and news people on tv.
Ex. I will order more masks, going farther and gowns, too. This seems to
refer to time. Is this correct usage of “farther”.
No, it’s not correct, but it’s a common mistake.
Just a typo however in the final sentence in the 1st paragraph under the BOLD FURTHER VS FARTHER you will find “that its cousin” should be “than.” So much for grammar programs which help in the prevention of published errors. Just sayin’
This is very helpful. Thanks for the explanation.
Hope you don’t mind me pointing out this is an American distinction. ‘Farther’ is rarely used in British English. 🙂
I don’t mind at all, but this website is based on American English 🙂
You have a wider audience than the USA 🙂
Love your articles.
I love having a wider audience. But I can only provide guidance on one type of English here, and I’m not familiar enough with British (and other) forms of English to where I’d feel comfortable writing articles about them. With that said, I absolutely appreciate readers from all around the world.