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Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
What's the difference between further and farther?
Tuesday May 21st 2013
Question
What's the difference between further and farther?
Answer

 

Question

Many learners have asked, "What's the difference between further and farther?"

 

Answer

There is a long history of disagreement about how these two words should be used, among native speakers of English as well as learners. The question is complicated by the fact that both further  and farther are sometimes used as adjectives and sometimes used as adverbs, and the part of speech helps determine their use.  

If you want to be sure not to make a mistake, the simplest rules to follow are:

  1. Use farther only when you are referring to distance, literal or figurative
  2. Use further only to mean “more”

as in these examples from the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary:

farther

  • It’s farther away than I'd thought. (farther = at a greater distance, physically)
  • She lives on the farther side of town. (farther = at a greater distance, physically)
  • Nothing could be farther from the truth. (farther = at a greater distance, figuratively)

further

  • Further research is needed. (further = more)
  • I do not want anything further to do with this mess. (further = more)

If you follow this rule, you will not make a mistake, and no one will disagree with you. 

However, be aware that many native speakers also use the adverb form of further to refer to distance, as in these two examples, also from the Learner’s Dictionary:

  • He lives further from the office than his boss. (further = at a greater distance)
  • Their house is further down the street. (further = at a greater distance)

It is this adverbial use of further that is most controversial. You can use the adverb further to refer to distance, as many speakers do, but be aware that some people may disagree with your choice of words. 

 

 

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