“Farther relates to definition, further is a definition of degree.” Finding Forrester
Is it always so simple to work out when to use these two words? Maybe, maybe not! Some people struggle to remember when either word should or shouldn’t’ be used and that doesn’t surprise me, since they’re so similar!
The easiest way to remember when to use one or the other, is to think of the word far in ‘farther’ – this is related to physical distance. So if you are talking about how far a place is in relation to the subject, you use ‘farther’.
The other word, ‘further’ is used when talking about metaphorical or figurative distance.
As adverbs, both farther and further can imply distance in space or time:
- The road is blocked, we can’t go any further/farther.
- We watched their train moving gradually further/farther away.
- Liverpool is further/farther away from London than Manchester.
- Nothing could be further/farther from the truth.
When the degree or extent of something is implied, the use of further is preferred:
- They didn’t get any further with making a decision.
- The police decided to investigate further.
As an adjective, further, can also be used mainly with abstract nouns, to mean additional, extra, more:
- Are there any further questions?
- Further supplies will be available soon.
- Please go to the manager if you have any further enquiries.
- The committee decided to take no further action.
- I’m thinking about educating further.
The adjective farther is only used for referring to distance:
- The farther shore of the lake could hardly be seen in the mist.
- My family’s home is at the farther end of the village.
- The farther you go, the more I will miss you.
- The mountain peak was farther away than she’d expected.
The usage of these two words can sometimes be a little confusing, but don’t worry about it too much because reliable sources like The Oxford English Dictionary would say that they can be used interchangeably, especially in ambiguous cases like this one:
“I’m further along in the test right now than you are”
You could use farther if you’re thinking of it as physical distance through the pages of the test or you could use further if you’re relating it to figurative distance through the assessment process.
So the bottom line is, they are generally used interchangeably, but if you need to differentiate between the two – think of actual distance (far) for ‘farther’ and the other one, ‘further’, is for figurative or metaphorical distance.
An easy way to remember the difference!