The Difference Between Farther and Further

Album Cover: Eyes Open

"It's hard to argue when you won't stop making sense."
Snow Patrol / Hands Open

Posted on July 22, 2004 1:49 PM in Miscellaneous
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

Since one of my previous posts, The Difference Between Gray and Grey, has become fairly popular, I figured I might try it again with another set of words that has bewildered me for quite some time. Those words are "farther" and "further." What's the difference? When do you use one as opposed to the other? Well, let's find out.

According to a page called Irregular Comparisons, the difference boils down to that between the "distance" version of far and the "extent" version of far. When you are dealing with distance, the comparative form of the word is "farther." When you are dealing with extent, on the other hand, the comparative form of the word is "further." So, for example, you would either say "I hit the golf ball farther than anyone else" or "To further exemplify my point, I will show you my golf swing."

Isn't learning fun? Or, maybe you already knew this. If the latter is true, then isn't laughing at people who are stupid fun? :)

Comments

Bob on October 15, 2004 at 7:06 AM:

What about figurative distances? Do they qualify as "distance" or "extent" in this context? For example, "My wife's mind is f_rther into the depths of insanity than mine!"

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Bob on October 15, 2004 at 7:09 AM:

What about figurative distances? Do they qualify as "distance" or "extent" in this context? For example, "My wife's mind is f_rther into the depths of insanity than mine!"

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Bernie Zimmermann on October 20, 2004 at 6:36 AM:

Bob, my guess is you'd go with "farther" in that case, since you're still basically dealing with distance.

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Kim Anderson on January 08, 2005 at 6:33 PM:

I was thought that "farther" is something that you can physically measure. If you can't measure it, it falls into the extent of "further."

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Pfirsch on March 11, 2005 at 1:06 AM:

Kim's right according to these people:
http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19980220

From the other things I've seen, everybody seems to agree with Kim, but they also say that interchanging the two words is not completely wrong.

So, I guess that there is a real rule, but it's not enforced.

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Stuart on September 06, 2006 at 12:40 PM:

This is a non-rule. In practice either will do for distance and that's the way it has always been and probably always will be. This is the sort of rule followed by people who think that it is always wrong to split an infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition.

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Gulahm on September 11, 2006 at 11:48 AM:

To quickly respond, I'm not sure which I'm more fond of.

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mary hall on July 20, 2007 at 12:30 PM:

Kim Anderson explained it the best, now I can understand when to use "further" and "farther, if you can measure it, then it is farther. Thanks, Kim

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Jim M. on September 14, 2007 at 4:19 PM:

The movie 'Finding Forrester' has a scene where this topic is discussed (the protagonist confronts an evil English teacher correcting the teacher's incorrect use) - but i FORGET which version of the term is argued and why. It's a pretty descent film, so maybe someone can pick it up.

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ted on February 23, 2010 at 7:22 PM:

What about the line in the Black Eyed Peas song, Meet me Halfway..."I can't go any further than that". I think it's
wrong, should have used farther.

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Brad on August 21, 2010 at 1:27 PM:

Ted,

I think it would have to be placed into context. If the context is "I can't go any farther than that" meaning he physically can't travel beyond that distance anymore. OR he's using it in a metaphorical sense whereas he means "I can't go any further mentally" as in he is mentally drained and his thoughts need a break as it were. This is just my guess is all.

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shdbrhrbfhfd on April 02, 2011 at 11:53 AM:

another difference is that further can can be used as a verb but farther cannot.
EX.
He furthered his education...is okay
BUT
She farthered her journey...not only sound wrong but it also makes no grammatical sence. Plus its not a real word.

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Alex on November 03, 2012 at 12:23 AM:

There is no difference in British English. Further is used in EVERY context. Farther is almost obsolete.

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