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Farther vs. Further: What's the Difference? (Explanation, Examples, and Audio Reading Included)




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Quick Reference

  • Farther and further are often used interchangeably when discussing physical distances, but farther is preferred in these cases. For instance, "We need to drive farther," (preferred) or "We need to drive further." (accepted)

  • Further is preferred for figurative distances. For example, "If we want this company to go further, we need to be honest about where we are."

  • Further is also used to mean "more, extra, or additional," as in "Do you have any further questions?"

  • Further can be used as a verb to mean "to advance or develop." For example, "We need your help to further our cause."

  • Further can be used as a sentence modifier similar to furthermore, meaning in addition to what has come before. For instance, "And further, I don't believe Mr. Jones has the credentials for this job."

Farther and further are often used interchangeably. For instance, you might hear someone say "I can't run any farther" or "I can't run any further." In both cases, the person speaking means that they are exhausted and can't cover more distance by running--this is the maximum distance they can run. The meaning of farther and further, therefore, is "more distant," or "to or at a greater distance or more advanced point." They are both comparative forms of the word far. However, as we explore these two words, we quickly discover that while they are used in the same way when used as comparative adverbs and adjectives which refer to physical distances--such as the distance that a person can run--one of these words is much more versatile.


So, what's the difference between farther and further? In short, while both refer to distance, farther is typically preferred when discussing physical distances while further is preferred for figurative distances. For instance, you can move to a new city that is farther away from your best friend, but if you and your best friend stop communicating with one another as a result of the move, you grow further apart from each other. How close you are with a friend isn't something that can be measured with a ruler or a thermometer; it's an emotional distance, not a quantifiable fact.


Now, it's important to note that I've used the words "typically preferred" to discuss the usage of farther and further. In truth, as mentioned in the first paragraph, you will often hear these words used interchangeably, especially when referring to physical distance. With that in mind, most people won't have an issue if you say you are moving further away from your best friend. Let's look at some more examples of this.


"I don't want to drive any farther/further."


"He can hit the ball farther/further than anyone else on the team."


"Do you think you can throw the ball farther/further than your brother?"


"Which store is farther/further away?"


"Don't go any farther/further."


"We need to walk a little farther/further."


"The building is just a little farther/further down the road."


As you can see, farther and further can be used--and are used--in the same way when talking about physical distances. No one should think that it sounds funny if you use one word instead of the other in the cases above.


Okay, so, are there some uses or phrases where only one of the words is used?


Yes.


To understand why, we need to understand the grammatical uses of these words. To put it simply:

  • Farther can be an adverb or an adjective. For instance: "Can you swim farther than him?" (adverb) "The finish line was farther than we expected." (adjective)

  • Further can be an adverb, adjective, or verb. To illustrate: "We can't go further with this project." (adverb) "Do you have any further questions?" (adjective) "We need to further the plans." (verb, meaning to advance or further develop the plans)

What's important to note is that further as an adjective has two different uses. It can mean "at a greater distance," as in "It's further to downtown than you think" (In this case, you can also use "farther to downtown"), and it can also mean "more, extra, or additional," as in "Do you have any further evidence?" Further can also be used as an adverb in a similar way. For instance, "To further simplify our training process, we have created a comprehensive manual." In this case, it's like saying "In order to simplify the training process even more, we have created a comprehensive training manual."


If this is too much information, perhaps it's best to simply see further in action. As mentioned, when we are talking about figurative distances, further is the only word that really works for most situations. Let's take a look at some of these cases now, and let's pay attention to collocations such as "until further notice."


Here are some further examples with the word further:


"I'd like to discuss this further." (It sounds wrong to say "discuss this farther" in this case.)


"Do you have anything further to add to the discussion?" (Meaning "Do you have anything more to add...?")


"The store is closed until further notice." (Meaning until additional notice.)


"To make a further point, we don't have the budget for this project." (Meaning to make an additional point.)


"I refused to give him any further responsibility." (Meaning to give any extra or additional responsibility.)


"Any further decisions must be approved by me." (Meaning any additional decisions must be approved by me.)


"If we observe further, we will see that the test subject reacts strongly to the medicine." (Meaning if we observe more, or if we continue to observe.)


"She's always looking to further her career." (Meaning she is always looking to advance or to make progress in her career.)


"I'd like to make a further point about Adam's presentation." (Meaning I'd like to make an additional or extra point.)


"You'll get further in your career if you take my advice." (Meaning you will make more progress or go a greater distance in your career.)


"You're further than you know." (In this case, the person is likely talking about a process.)


"Are there any further questions?" (Meaning are there any more questions?)


"They have furthered the cause of economic equality in the region." (Meaning they have advanced the cause.)


"And further, we need to consider the impact this will have on the environment." (In formal writing, you can use "further" as a shorthand for "furthermore," which means "in addition.")


Okay, I think we can stop there. As you can see, further is much more versatile than farther, as there are many more figurative distances that can be discussed. I suggest that you review the examples above and try to use them in your own speaking and writing.


Recommended Usage

To sum up, use farther for physical distances, especially in formal settings. However, in informal settings, do not be shy to use further for physical distances as well, as most people will accept it. For almost everything else? Use further. Because while it doesn't sound too strange to say "You'll go farther in your career if you take my advice," if you'd like to play it safe, you should stick to further for figurative distances, and when you want to say "more, extra, or additional."


Finally, if you'd like to further your English vocabulary while supporting my work, consider purchasing a copy of my book, 300 Practical English Words and Phrases. It is available in PDF, e-Book, and paperback formats. Thank you for your support, and thank you for learning English with me.

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