Farther or Further?

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Farther or Further?

What is the difference between "farther" and "further"?

Use "farther" with physical distance.
  • Q: Farther?
    A: Six miles
  • Q: Farther?
    A: Nine centimetres
Use "further" with non-physical "distance" (i.e., figurative distance).
  • Q: Further?
    A: No, I've heard enough.
  • Q: Further?
    A: Yes, give me more questions.
further or farther
If you're unsure which to use because it's difficult to make a distinction between physical and figurative distance, opt for "further." For example:
  • Nothing could be further from the truth.

More about "Farther" and "Further"

Writers are often unsure when to use "further" and when to use "farther." Their confusion is understandable because the "two words have been used more or less interchangeably throughout most of their history," which includes "whenever spatial, temporal, or metaphorical distance is involved." (Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary). However, as "farther" includes the word "far" (which clearly relates to distance), lots of your readers will prefer "farther" being used for distance. Therefore, you will annoy fewer readers if you stick to the following guidelines:
  • Use "farther" for physical distance.
  • Use "further" for non-physical distance.
The words can often be used interchangeably for two reasons:
  • (Reason 1) It's not clear whether you're talking about physical distance or non-physical distance. This is quite common. When it happens, opt for "further."
  • (Reason 2) The distinction between the two words has never been well observed. If you're unsure which to use, opt for "further" as it is slowly taking the place of "farther" (especially in the United Kingdom).
  • (See evidence of this claim with Google's Ngram viewer (which scans millions of books written over the last two centuries). You can also use this tool to observe trends with terms like "miles further" and "miles farther.")

Farther

If you're thinking about "more miles," "more kilometres," "more inches," "more centimetres," etc., the safest option is to use "farther."
  • Q: How much farther?
    A: Four miles.
  • Q: How much farther?
    A: Six hundred centimetres.
  • Q: How much farther?
    A: It's just around the corner.
  • Q: How much farther?
    A: Three more fence posts.

Further

If you're not thinking about "more miles" etc. but "more time," "more effort" (in fact, more anything that isn't distance), then you must use "further."

"Further" is more diverse than "farther." "Farther" is limited to the idea of more distance, but "further" covers all topics (even distance if you're prepared to annoy a few pedants). Only "further" can mean "furthermore," "moreover," "more," "additional," "extra" and "supplementary."
  • Q: Further?
    A: No, I get your point.
  • Q: Further?
    A: Two days.
  • Q: Further?
    A: We still have over a hundred to make.
  • Q: Further?
    A: It's just around the corner.
  • ("Farther" would have been okay too.)
  • Q: Further?
    A: Three more fence posts.
  • ("Farther" would have been okay too.)
  • Q: Further?
    A: Twenty-six pages.
  • (At a push, you could make a case for "farther" here, but "further" would be better as pages aren't physical distance. This overlap of ideas is common, so don't beat yourself up if you're struggling to make a clear distinction. When you're in that situation, go for "further.")
Overlap between "Further" and "Farther"


It is common for the notions of physical distance (i.e., when you should be using "farther") and figurative distance (i.e., when you should be using "further") to overlap.

Don't be hard on yourself if you're struggling to make a clear distinction. When you're in that situation, opt for "further."
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? List of easily confused words