So is there any difference between the words “farther” and “further?” It seems like people use them interchangeably all the time, but is this correct? I get questions about these two words just about every week, and they can be tricky—after all, they’re only one letter a part from each other. In this post I want to go over the differences between these two words, how they work, and some ways to tell them a part.
After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever mix up farther vs. further again.
When to Use Farther
The traditional rule for these two words states that “farther” should be used for references to physical distance. For examples,
- She walked farther north along the trail.
- My house is a few blocks farther down the road.
- I swam farther than all the others.
When to Use Further
While “farther” is used for measurable physical distances, “further” is used when referring to a figurative distance, a metaphorical advancement, or an extension of time or degree. For example,
- Nothing could be further from the truth.
- In order to further myself, I need to receive more schooling.
- The defendant asked for further consideration.
You can apply this same rule to the words farthest and furthest.
Further, along with its variant furthermore, can also be used as a sentence modifier to introduce a new statement that relates to a previous point. For example,
- Further, I see no absolutely no reason why we should not adopt this policy.
As you can see, further is the more versatile of the two words because it has multiple different senses in which it can be used. Farther has the restriction of physical space, so when in doubt, using further is the safe bet.
Even though the distinction between these two words seems pretty straightforward, sometimes it can be tricky to pick out which word you ought to use in a sentence. For example, consider the following examples,
- I am much further in my book than you.
Should this sentence use further or farther? You could make the case for both. For instance, I could be saying that I am further along in the metaphorical storyline of the book than you are. I could, however, also be saying that I am farther through the physical number of pages in the book than you are.
Here’s another example,
- You went much further than I thought you would.
This is where context is so important, because this sentence could be saying one of two things. It could be saying that you reached a new level that is beyond (further) where I thought you would go. Or it could be saying that you went a longer distance than I thought you would go—consider the number of laps around a track.
In order to know which word to use, the context around the sentence make a big difference.
Practice Quiz and Examples
- Today, I ran ______ than ever before.
- We’re expecting _____ delays on today’s flight.
- The dictator moved the country even ______ from a democracy.
- There is a small town on the ______ side of the mountain.
Display the answers below.
History and Usage
Believe of not, the distinction between further vs. farther did not always exist. That’s right; for most of their history in fact, they were used interchangeably. It hasn’t been until the last 100 years or so that they started to diverge from each other.
Some people still use the words interchangeably and dismiss the distinction altogether, but those numbers are decreasing year by year. The Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook both recommend following the usage rule, and if you want to remain precise in the meaning of your writings, it’s probably best to keep the distinction.
Is it farther or further? Of course, this depends on the context of your sentence.
This rule also applies to farthest and furthest.