What’s the difference between further and farther?
It’s easy to confuse these two words, even for native English speakers. But there is a simple way to remember the difference between them.
Further describes figurative distances and time. In other words, it is referring to a metaphorical distance and not a precise measurement. It is distance by degree or extent.
Farther is used when you want to indicate a physical distance that can usually be measured.
However, the two words have always been interchanged and are often used to indicate either meaning in different forms of the English language.
If you are a little pedantic about your choice of words, it is worth understanding these two. Then you can get them right every time.
How far yes, but never how fur
A quick way to understand the small contrast is that the farther derives from the word far, which means a distinct measurable distance.
As an example, one might ask:
“How far is Paris from Berlin?”
“It’s just over 1,000 kilometres.”
“How much farther is London from Paris?”
“Just under 300 kilometres farther.”
These phrases are referring to a distance that is quantifiable and not simply an advanced point.
However, it is not wrong to use further in the second example. In British English especially, the two are generally equivalent. In American English though, farther is used more often.
Let’s progress further
When there is no specific or measurable distance, we use further.
It often refers to a greater degree rather than a greater distance. In general, further is a figurative or metaphorical form of referring to distance or time.
The more you study, the further you can go in life.
Start wide, expand further, and never look back. – Arnold Schwarzenegger
I want to investigate these two words much further.
Before we go any further, can we agree on the main aim of the project?
Let’s get this deal moving, without any further delay.
Further as a verb
Unlike farther, further is also a verb. It means to advance something, which is easy to understand.
We would like to further this project with more funding.
To further your career prospects, you should socialise in the right circles.
I really plan on furthering my chances by joining an industry association.
Are you planning to further your education?
Further as an adjective
Before a noun, further can be an adjective to describe something as more distant or to a greater extent.
If you want to see the cows, go to the further reaches of the farm.
For further details, please contact our head office.
It looks like we have a further complication.
A good way to remember the difference between further and father is when you can use the adverb, furthermore.
It means in addition to, as well as, or on top of that. All of these have immeasurable meanings and do not relate to a defined distance.
Furthermore, I would like to say that we plan to proceed no further with these negotiations.
There are no rewards for failure. Furthermore, the rewards for success are limited.
What about the comparative and superlative?
Generally, we would use further rather than farther.
It is further to Moscow than Prague. Although, it is farther would also be correct.
The moon is furthest from Earth at the apogee. But yes, farthest could also be used.
In writing, you would probably select further in either form because farther sounds a little cumbersome.
But the same rule applies if you want to be absolutely explicit in meaning. If it is absolute distance, use farther.
Further to what I just said
In the end, there is only a little difference between these two confusing words.
If you are in any doubt, use further and you will almost always be correct. You can use it both figuratively and literally.
But if you really want to be definitive about referring to absolute and measurable distance, use farther for a literal sense of defined distance.
If you have your kids in the back of the car asking, “Oh, how much further?” You would say, “Not long now.”
But if they asked, “How much farther?” You would have to reply, “Twenty-seven and a half miles.”
I hope you don’t have smart kids who know the difference to tell you when you are wrong.
Just remember that you will only use farther when it refers to far, so is quite restricted in use.
I don’t think I should take this topic of further vs farther any further, as I have nothing further to add.
Related reading: So, Can You Start A Sentence With But, And Or Yet?