Do you know when it’s appropriate to use "farther" and when you should use "further"?
It’s more complicated for an American English speaker than for British speakers. Writers sometimes use farther and further interchangeably because they both mean "to a greater distance or extent." But American English speakers distinguish farther as a physical distance you can measure and further as a metaphorical or figurative distance. Let’s look at their definitions for more meaning.
The dictionary definition of farther is:
- to a greater distance or more advanced point
The dictionary defines further as:
- to a greater degree or extent
For example, if you can measure the distance, use farther. Here are a few examples:
- Ten more miles farther on this road, and we can stop for a rest.
- How much farther to the hotel?
- The farther south you travel, the warmer it gets.
If you’re referring to a non-physical distance, use further. Examples might help:
- I will not discuss the matter further.
- Can you further explain how we can avoid this in the future?
- She plunged further into the vast research available on the topic.
When it becomes sticky
You don’t always know if the distance is literal or figurative.
Let’s say you’re reading an immensely interesting book. Do you want to read further to gain more knowledge or farther through the pages to get to the end? You could look at it both ways:
- The teacher told students to read no farther than Chapter 2.
- I can’t go further with this book; it’s too disturbing.
Some authors use farther and further differently depending on their country of origin. For example, Thomas Hardy wrote:
- My ponies are tired, and I have further to go.
In the US, you would write, "I have farther to go" because it’s a physical distance, but using further is much more common in British English.
Distinctions between further and farther
While you can use both further and farther as adverbs to show either physical or abstract distance, further has other uses. Let’s look at a few examples.
Using further as an adjective
- I will give you further instructions to help you complete the assignment.
- Her behavior led me to have further doubts about her motivation.
Using further as a verb
- I plan to further my understanding of Spanish by taking an online course.
- His speech furthered hopes of a political reconciliation.
Using further as an adverb meaning "in addition"
- She spoke further about the current state of her generation’s political involvement.
- You can choose further to either follow the recommendations or find an alternate route.
Using farther as an adjective
- The library is on the farther side of town.
- The farther end of the field was not as close as it seemed.
- The hobbits lived farther north than the dwarves.
Rather than worry over farther or further, think about if you mean "far" when deciding which one to use. "Far" is a physical distance you can measure, which means you should use farther.
Ultimately, however, if you’re in doubt, choose further. It’s less inflexible in its meaning. Consider how wrong these examples sound:
- You should farther your education.
- Farther to your original instructions…
If you mix them up, ProWritingAid will flag it to make sure you use the right word every time.