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Farther vs. Further

Updated on July 25, 2013

Farther versus Further

Throughout history, farther and further have been used interchangeably. Even the Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that the words are interchangeable; they are the inflected form of far. It is not until recent history that they are becoming distinguished by grammarians.

Farther

Farther shows a relation to physical distance. If you can replace the word farther with "more miles" then you have done it correctly.

  • Our car drove farther than I thought it would on one tank of gas.
  • I wanted to run farther, but I became too exhausted.
  • Our house is farther away from the restaurant than yours.

Further

Further relates to metaphorical distance or depth. It is a time, degree, or quantity. It is also another way of saying "additional".

  • I asked that there be further discussion on the matter.
  • I need to look further into the logistics of moving farther from my office building.
  • I hope that gas prices drop further for our road trip vacation.

Questions & Answers

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      • ladeda profile image

        ladeda 5 years ago

        I'm writing a new Hub right now, and I just stumbled upon your Hub to help me solve my current further/farther dilema! Thank you!

      • Robin profile image
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        Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

        Emmy, thanks for the comment. I was demonstrating both "further" and "farther" in that sentence. ;)

      • profile image

        Emmy 5 years ago

        Did anybody notice in the examples for further, the author used "farther from my office building"?

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        Jerry 5 years ago

        So which do I use when referring to depth or height?

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        Eric 5 years ago

        Distance vs degree.

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        c the bibliophile 6 years ago

        There is a great scene from Finding Forrester where the main character challenges his English professor by correcting him on his usage of farther.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iA4Vj-Q3HX4

        Wonderful movie, by the way.

      • profile image

        Chris 6 years ago

        I can't decide: Further or Farther

        "Sometimes he felt, if he stretched out his hand a little FURTHER, he would find the memories in the cushions or under the rug, hard and real."

        -There's no real 'traveling' going on because it's a journey of the mind. So would FURTHER be correct?

      • profile image

        krystal_HT 6 years ago

        Now I understand. I really understand when using "further" & "farther". Thank u very much

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        Mark 6 years ago

        Great explanation. Thanks for sharing, keep up the nice work!

      • profile image

        bee 6 years ago

        would i say "Farther" or further" in this sentence: "i am ___ into the movie now and it is starting to make more sense"?

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        Frederik 6 years ago

        Farther and farthest are American English. The original (British English) adjective far bends to further, furthest. So, use the one that is applicable to your language, don’t intertwine them.

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        beth 6 years ago

        which one is correct?

        i am one day further from the last time...

        i am one day farther from the last time...

      • profile image

        Nick 6 years ago

        I would also like to add that I suspect that "farther" and "further" are simply different pronunciations of the same word that evolved in different regions or groups of people, and later rules of usage were made up to account for the difference in pronunciation.

        For example, some British say "clark" while Americans say "clerk." In older Bibles you will see the spelling "potsherd," but we would pronounce it "potshard," or just "shard." It may be that the same process gave us "farther" and "further."

      • profile image

        Nick 6 years ago

        Years ago MAD Magazine did a satire on "Tarzan," who was acting as a guide for a British explorer and his daughter (both wearing pith helmets, of course). Becoming exhausted after a long trek through the jungle, the daughter exclaimed in her British accent, "I can't go a step farther!" Her dad retorted, "What do you need a stepfather for when you have me?"

        I believe she used "farther" correctly, since she was speaking of distance. Then again, she could have meant "an additional step" and should have said "further," but that would have spoiled the joke!

      • StuartJ profile image

        StuartJ 6 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

        To Chris and Pam: Grammatical rules are not pronouncements from experts; they are simply the way people speak and write, and if enough people begin to speak and write differently, the rules change.

        Grammar is derived from usage, not the other way around. At least this is the attitude of modern linguists. It's a pity but many "grammatical rules" are simply the opinions or preferences of self-appointed experts from the 18 century and are not true rules (in any reasonable sense of the term) at all.

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        StuartJ  6 years ago

        10b, in answer to your question, I think it is accepted even by the sticklers that "further" should be used for figurative uses.

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        Hamish 6 years ago

        My rule of thumb for these debates is as follows: if someone can come up with a plausible usage in which a genuine ambiguity would arise from using the "incorrect" alternative, it's worth getting right. Otherwise, I don't care.

        Can anyone give me a sentence in which the meaning will be made unclear if I use "further" when I'm talking about distance?

        Didn't think so ;)

      • profile image

        Tom 7 years ago

        This is bizarre to find an "active" thread after it was started 4+ years ago. Robin, from the original postings, must be holding a school-aged child by now.

        Anyway, thanks for the help with farther vs. further.

      • profile image

        Sims 7 years ago

        Oh Tempora! Oh Mores! Farther/Further....There/Their....Than/Then. There are rules, traditions, customs, etc. Time blurs the lines and distinctions. Life would be simpler if new words and corresponding usages were employed following the creation. or invention of a new concept rather than adding new meanings and usages to existing words.

      • profile image

        Jules 7 years ago

        I thought the word 'farther' had dropped out of usage. The last time I heard the word used was some 55 to 60 years ago - by my father.

      • profile image

        iamr 7 years ago

        The words are, as adverbs, for the most part interchangeable and have always been so until grammarians decided to make them different (they are, after all, both comparatives of far). I am reminded of split infinitives. Why should it be improper to split an infinitive? No reason at all - except that 17th century grammarians, noting that in Classical languages (Greek and Latin) you can't split an infinitive (since it's a single word) decided to rule that it's wrong to do so.

      • profile image

        Dave 7 years ago

        Language changes. Someone invents a new device or process and we invent a word to describe it. What I find anoying is taking a perfectly good word and retasking it to a new use so that the old use becomes unclear. For example, 50 years ago "technology" had nothing to do with computers or electronics. You could refer to the Bessemer steel making process as a technology. If you do that today people think that it is some sort of electronic or computer process. And don't get me started on "High Technology" - what's that, a method of smoking drugs?

      • profile image

        duggy dugg 7 years ago

        biff is correct ; you can further your career but you wouldn't say i farthered my career

      • profile image

        Chris 7 years ago

        I think that these are the types of grammar issues that are unimportant... Although I was interested in finding the "correct" usage I think that the popular usage is more important than the "correct usage". I do understand the purpose in teaching "correct" grammar but believe that it is worthless to correct (from many people's point of view) acceptable and widely used grammatical "errors".

        Another example is may as in "May I go to the restroom". Although I occasional get irritated when people use can, I understand that "may" is becoming an outdated word... change happens, especially with words that can easily be dropped or replaced by similar words.

        One thing that bothers me quite a bit, though, is the common usage of "your" in place of you're.

        What do you guys think about Southern Californians pronouncing "height" as "height-th", are they wrong?

      • profile image

        mr mike 7 years ago

        farther = distance

        further = degree...duh!!!

      • profile image

        odie  7 years ago

        ah! ok

      • profile image

        guallivera 7 years ago

        Im sad to say Robin that I am a grammer serial killer! I dont mean to be but every time i put a pen to paper/key to keypad grammer blood is strewn all across the paper/key pad.I def. agree with you on the farther futher deal, however my question is, isn't distance being used when using futher as a command?? Example: "go futher!" now "go farther" sounds good too but i was just pointing that out about further. Thanks

      • profile image

        Jane 7 years ago

        I couldn't understand a single "sentence" NightFlower wrote. Maybe she should further her education? Not to get "to" technical...sheez, the people who call themselves writers.

      • profile image

        Terra 7 years ago

        Now, I was wondering, I am reading Henry IV Part 1 and I just came across a Falstaff quotation:

        I'd starve ere I'll rob a foot further (2.2.22)

        Would this still be considered correct in modern English grammar? Yes, it is a hypothetical distance, but it is connected with the concrete unit of "feet." What do you think?

      • profile image

        Mia 7 years ago

        Hi, Robin =D Do you have a hub on "in behalf" vs. "on behalf"? Thanks!

      • Sherry Star profile image

        Sherry Star 8 years ago

        I'll stick with the old tried and true....farther for distance and further for moreover, in addition to, etc.

        This is fun. I love to learn. Even though I'm a native English speaking person, our language is hard. So many exceptions to the rule and it seems new ones are popping up all the time.

      • Sherry Star profile image

        Sherry Star 8 years ago

        Seawolf31 Boy I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets annoyed when hearing presumably educated people say "lend" for "loan" or vice versa. Will you please lend me your pen? I would like to take out a loan with your bank. I hear it all the time today on TV, so and so loaned so and so something. Like fingernails on a blackboard to me.

        sherry

      • profile image

        10b 8 years ago

        Hi,

        I'm a grammar teacher and still get confused with all this. 'The more she tried to visualise her goals the further/farther away they seemed'? Which one would you think is correct?

      • profile image

        Liz 8 years ago

        awesome, thanks! =D

      • terrowhite profile image

        terrowhite 8 years ago

        The concept was powerful!! I really get how grammer is important farther and farther.

      • profile image

        Seawolf31 8 years ago

        Two other misused or incorrectly-used word forms that have always annoyed me include 'bad' vs badly, as in 'I feel badly about your misfortune' vs the correct form, 'I feel bad about.......' AND

        Loan vs lend. I hear newscasters and reporters discussing the Fed, for example, 'loaning' money to banks during this current financial crisis instead of using the correct form, 'lending' that money. You 'lend' money or you make a 'loan.' You don't 'loan' money.

      • profile image

        RockyGraves 8 years ago

        Howdy, I've one for you. My Mother, bless her soul uses, despite my constant corrections, (with love of course) the non-word FORTHER. She goes forther down the trail and that's just the way it is.

        I've no further comment.

        Peace

      • roastedpinebark profile image

        roastedpinebark 8 years ago from Iowa

        This was quite interesting, I was hoping that you would branch off into other words on this hub like affect and effect (i never get that one) : )

      • profile image

        codie i spink 8 years ago

        what do you think taste better cake or pie?

      • profile image

        the theer 8 years ago

        juice it was a good argumentlement

      • profile image

        Marvin 8 years ago

        "I believe that farther work is required on that document." Hmmmmm!! Sounds odd to me. I agree with your definition above. Further, deponent sayeth not.

      • profile image

        Mauricio 8 years ago

        I do understand how to use them, buuutt ...

        farther comes from more far , so we should never say more farther. If farther has the same form as further , why do we say further more ? is it the same if i say further and further more ?

        i hope i am clear enough , english is my second language.

        Robin , btw , its not that hard to learn english , it might be the easiest one . At least to get to understand it and speak it. If you want to go FURTHER it may be harder.

      • profile image

        David 8 years ago

        Just what the grammar doctor ordered!

      • profile image

        Sophie 9 years ago

        Farther isn't actually an English word. We always use 'further'. 'Farther' is only a word in American-english

      • Uninvited Writer profile image

        Susan Keeping 9 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

        You are definitely doing a public service with your grammar articles :) Good stuff.

      • Peter M. Lopez profile image

        Peter M. Lopez 9 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

        THANK YOU. Your/You're hubs on/upon grammar should/ought be required reading in/during school.

        Seriously, though, if not in school, then most definitely a prereq to writing hubs.

      • profile image

        Elvie 9 years ago

        I'm a grammar teacher. Everything just got more confusing! Hehehe. How can I explain this to my student?

      • profile image

        George 10 years ago

        How about "more" in the context of "further information." "More miles" almost fits in the context of Farther, too, but not quite.

        My opinion, "farther" is a distance distinction, further is, mmmmm, a philosophical and/or metaphysical measure. Anyone?

      • Robin profile image
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        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Stuart J,

        The Merriam-Webster agrees with you as well (the link is above), but many grammarians do not. Personally, I would err on the side of being more specific and find a distinction between the two. It's up to you. Thanks for the comment!

      • Robin profile image
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        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Kyle,

        Thanks! You were right, a mistake on my part. Thanks for the catch!! ;)

      • profile image

        Kyle 10 years ago

        Robin, I don't want to be picky, but in an earlier post you said "I would error on the side of..." I just wanted to let you know that "error" is not a verb-- I think you meant "to err".

        Just trying to be helpful!

      • Robin profile image
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        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        dtl,

        I agree, I think that "further" is the correct usage. I'm glad the hub may have helped!

      • profile image

        dtl 10 years ago

        I am editing a document that concerns individuals who deliver educational programs in outdoor settings in different areas of the nation. One statement in the document is written as follows: "Participants in roles further from the field tended to encourage a softer approach and more incremental expectations in an attempt to mitigate anxieties regarding time."

        Although this could be referrring to people who are physically distant from those working in the field, I am guessing that the author may be making a reference (on purpose or not) to the familiar phrase "further afield." I was tempted to replace "further" with "farther," but I am now leaning towards leaving it the way it is, assuming the author did not really infer physical distance.

      • Robin profile image
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        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Hmmm, well I hope the former Brittney Spears and not the present one.  Thanks for the compliment...I think.  ;)

      • profile image

        Marcelo 10 years ago

        I think Robin looks a lot like Britney Spears... does anyone else think alike?

      • Robin profile image
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        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks for the comments, Harzer. "Further/farther" is a distinction some choose to use and some don't. I do not think they should be used interchangeably. "Farther" should be used to convey distance, "further" to convey everything else.

        Why wouldn't you use "farther/farthest" when using a derivative of "far" instead of "further/furthest"? I do not believe that "furtherest" is a word; you can say "furthest" though.

        Thanks for the comments!

        Robin

      • profile image

        Detti 10 years ago

        I am afraid that 'farther' can not replace 'further' in your examples, whereas 'further' can replace 'farther'.

        'Farther' may suffer from its identical pronunciation to 'father' in BE; I at any rate seem to manage with 'further'/'furthest' in all cases where I need to use a derivative of 'far'. My childhood usage even extended to 'furtherest' I seem to recall.

        Harzer

      • Robin profile image
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        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Ha! Sorry about that, but actually this is one you could leave and it would be fine by some accounts. I just prefer the distinction ;)

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        wajay_47 10 years ago

        Yep, now I've got to edit another one of my hubs! LOL! Thanks, Robin. Great hub.

      • Robin profile image
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        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Interesting. I don't think you should use "farther information" either. I think most people use "further" more than "farther" in sentences. I feel for second language learners. English is such a difficult language to learn; especially since there are so many rules that are not agreed upon. Farther and further are a perfect example of this incongruity. Thanks for bringing up this distinction and for the comment!

      • StuartJ profile image

        StuartJ 10 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

        I've just realised, after writing in a hub "further information", that I couldn't use "farther" in that context...

        So, is it fair comment that there are occasions when "futher" is used metaphorically that you can't replace it with "farther" but that, in common usage anyway, many use "further" for distance?

        Or am I confusing the business more? I'm afraid that I have gotten into the habit of using "further" for distance myself. But sometimes rules like this are useful for learners when Native speakers can get away with breaking them.

      • Robin profile image
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        Robin Edmondson 11 years ago from San Francisco

        I think I'm too blown away by your prose to notice your grammar. You have grammatical poetic license! You are legit!! Do you have any short stories you are willing to share? I'd love to read them!

      • NightFlower profile image

        NightFlower 11 years ago

        I'm sorry, I mean't thank you for liking my poetry any way. (Oops)

      • NightFlower profile image

        NightFlower 11 years ago

        OMG Robin and you're and an English Teacher. It's funny my grammar is terrible which is why I don't punctuate. So far I've gotten by on content (thank god). Most people like what my poetry is saying not getting to technical about the structure and grammer...but you could (smile) and you haven't. Thanks for liking my picture anyway.

      • Robin profile image
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        Robin Edmondson 11 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks Pam! I agree completely. I like they way you explained it, very clear. Please feel free to add any grammar hubs that strike your fancy. ;) Robin

      • profile image

        Pam 11 years ago

        Our language - the specifics of correct grammatical usage, is going FARTHER and FARTHER away from its former correctness; hence, I hope many will try to use words as they were intended. "Farther" only relates to "far" - i.e., distance. The rest is all about "further" and its various usages. This comes from a retired English teacher - so may have some value for you. :)

      • Ralph Deeds profile image

        Ralph Deeds 11 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

        Another fairly common mistake which I heard just last night on the ABC "docudrama" is using "hone" (sharpen) when the correct word is "home" (as in homing pigeon). One of the characters was talking about a drone honing in on a target or something to that effect.

      • Robin profile image
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        Robin Edmondson 11 years ago from San Francisco

        I agree! In Britain it is no longer customary to use apostrophes in plural numbers (1990s) or in abbreviations (CDs), but we're a little behind on changing this rule here in America. I prefer to leave the apostrophe out in these instances, even though some may think it's incorrect. It just makes me cringe to use it. I'm glad that I'm not alone on this matter!

      • Ralph Deeds profile image

        Ralph Deeds 11 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

        Another of my pet peeves is the NY Times and some other publications' insistence on punctuating plural numbers with an apostrophe "s" as if they were possessives. For example, the 1990s was a period of prosperity instead of 1990s. I can see no logical reason to use an apostrophe in this case. Anybody else?

      • Ralph Deeds profile image

        Ralph Deeds 11 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

        I was taught the same way you were, Robin. But I suspect the distinction has pretty well disappeared outside the ranks of English professors as is the case with many other nice distinctions.

      • StuartJ profile image

        StuartJ 11 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

        I'd disagree with you here. They always have been interchangeable and always will be in practice. Some usage manuals have argued otherwise, but they have no basis for it usage or logic, in my opinion.

        http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=8&q=f...

      • Robin profile image
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        Robin Edmondson 11 years ago from San Francisco

        Yes, thanks for the comment!

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        biff 11 years ago

        Further can also be a verb (further one's agenda), but I don't think the same is true for farther.