Farther vs Further: What's the Difference and Which to Use?


Farther vs Further: What's the Difference and Which to Use?

We usually use words farther and further in the meaning "more distant". Though, American people use the word "farther" when they're talking about physical distance and "further" to describe figurative distance. In this article, you will get the comparison of farther vs further, learn the difference between these words' meaning, and discover which to use in particular situations.

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Farther: the Meaning and General Usage Rules and Cases

The adverb "farther" means the comparative of far: to a greater degree/distance, or at a higher level.

1. Here are the examples where this word means distance or a degree:

I never got further than just ten pages of "War and Peace".

We listened to the current problems with the car but didn't get further to solve anything.

The thing is further complicated by the fact that the teacher refused to accept my paper.

Every new day she falls further and further in love.

2. If someone takes or goes further, it means to take something to the higher level:

Before I go any further with my persuasive essay, I guess I need to read all those detailed instructions from my teacher.

Before taking the matter further, I'd like to file charges against that woman.

In the next paragraph, we will see how the word "further" differs from the word "farther". 

Further: the Meaning and General Usage Rules and Cases

Further in English usage can mean different things depending on the sentence. It can be used as an adjective, adverb, or a verb.

1. The word "further" as an adverb or adjective can be used in meaning "extra", "additional", or "more":

Have you something further to comment on?

If you have further orders, please let me know about it.

It costs me just $40 per day and a further $50 for the car insurance.

This mall will be closed until further reports.

We need to discuss this further.

2. The word "further" as an adverb or adjective can be used in meaning "greater distance":

I am too tired and cannot go any further.

Write a little further and complete this paragraph quickly.

3. As a verb, further can be used in meaning to help something or someone or to advance something:

She thinks his assistance would be a significant help in furthering this project.

The Common Meaning of Farther and Further 

What's in common with the definitions of these words? Is it possible to use farther or further in the same way? If you look in some guides, their authors can disagree but we already see that both words are used to describe the distance.  

For example, August Strindberg in his book, "The Road to Damascus", uses the word "further" in physical distance meaning: 

"The further from one another, the nearer once can be."

If you take a look at Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary, both words further and farther were used in the same meaning earlier but nowadays, they have different meanings. You can use both words as adverbs to describe metaphorical, temporal, or spatial distance. But if there is no meaning of distance, you should use the word "further". 

As an example, let's see the quote by C.S. Lewis from his book "The Last Battle":

"This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now . . . Come further up, come further in!"

More "Further" Versus "Farther" Tips 

Are you still confused with further vs farther meaning? Use the tips below to memorize when to use farther and further!

  • Use "farther" when you're writing about physical distance and "further" when it's about metaphorical distance. It's easy to remember because the word "farther" has the word "far" inside. Here are some good examples that may be useful for you to remember this:

Imagine that Bob and Steve are having a run together but then Bob gets tired.

I'm tired already! How much farther to run? - He asks.

We see that he uses the word "farther" because it means physical distance. Steve is disappointed that his partner is close to giving up and he says with an irritation:

If you ask further, I'm not going to wait for you!

We see that Steve is talking about the extent of Bob's complaining, and that's why the word "further" appears. 

  • When the meaning isn't clear, you can use any word. Of course, you may dig into many dictionaries and find the right meaning, but we assure you that in most cases, it's acceptable to use any of the words "farther" or "further" interchangeably. Be informed that British people use both these words to describe physical distance.
  • If it's hard for you to make a decision which word to use, write "further" instead of "farther" just because the last word has restrictions. For example, you cannot use "farther" when you're meaning "in addition" or "moreover". If you're still confused with the meaning, feel free to use "furthermore":

Furthermore, I hope you completed your homework for tomorrow.

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