The difference in the spelling is just one letter, and the difference in the pronunciation is so subtle, that sometimes you can’t even tell it is two different words. And yet it is. “Further” and “farther” have two different meanings and two distinct differences in usage, and despite what you may have learned, there is indeed a time when you are supposed to use one over the other.
Farther acts as an adverb in sentences and this word is typically used to refer to a physical distance. It is used when you are creating a sentence describing distance affiliated with physical things, and denotes an amount that can be measured and quantified. For example:
- During the training session, Alyssa ran farther than Mike.
- She parked farther from the office so she could walk to work and enjoy the sunny day.
Further is a little more complicated in that it can act as an adverb, verb or adjective. In contrast to “farther,” the use of this word is more classically used to indicate metaphorical distance or amount, and refers to things that can’t be specifically and quantifiably measured. For example:
- The teacher asked Joe to further explain his answer on the test.
- Their house sustained further damage after the second storm.
Usage – Further vs Farther
The easiest way to keep these two words straight and understand their appropriate usage is to think of using “farther,” for physical distance and “further” for metaphorical distance. In other words, one is for when you are talking about a real, tangible, measurable distance that is objective. The other is for when you are talking about a subjective distance, which can’t be specifically measured.
There are of course, exceptions to the uses recommended above, whereby either further or farther can both be used. Because they both mean “at a greater distance,” if that is the meaning you are trying to portray in your sentence, then using either word in that situation would be correct.
Like many other words in the English language, the appropriate use of further and farther can be tricky and confusing. When in doubt though, here’s a handy tip to settle the whole further vs farther question: if you can’t replace “further” in a sentence with “additional,” or “more,” you should likely be using “farther” instead.
Was this post helpful? Make sure to check out our other articles on Language and Grammar.