Stick Your Neck Out Farther or Further?

by Davina on April 1, 2013

Farther versus furtherConfused about when to use farther or further?

Do you find yourself sticking your neck out over commonly confused words? Well, after you read this post you will have a better understanding of when — or why — you may choose to use farther or further in a sentence.

What is the difference between farther and further?

When you look up the word “farther” in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary you are referred to “further” for the detailed definition. For centuries, these two words have been used interchangeably.

However, popular use and The Associated Press Stylebook demonstrate that “farther” should be used when referring to tangible physical distance, and the more abstract “further” should be used when referring to metaphorical or figurative distance, and an extension of time or degree.

Examples of farther and further used in a sentence

Here are some examples of “farther” and “further” being used in a sentence:

The athlete ran farther than his coach expected, but his efforts further exhausted him.

That statement couldn’t be any further from the truth.

Our team will further investigate this mystery.

The planet Earth is farther away from the sun than Venus.

Confusion over farther versus further rule

We’ve created a rule, which in most cases seems simple enough. One way to remember when to use “farther” (to refer to physical distance) is to recognize that the word includes the word “far.” Yet, this rule does not always work because sometimes it’s difficult to know if you are speaking about physical distance.

For example: The student advanced further in her reading assignment than her classmates.

Figuratively speaking, you could use “further” to indicate an advancement in time or degree, while you might also understand this to mean that physically, in number of pages, she advanced “farther” in her reading assignment.

“No one misuses farther for further, and you’re safe with further provided that you don’t apply it to distance. Several usage critics have even predicted that further will eventually absorb the meaning ‘more distant,’ driving farther into extinction.” (Claire Kehrwald Cook, Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing. Houghton Mifflin, 1985)

Regarding the title of this post, you may now recognize that depending on the context, either word would be the correct choice.

Depending on the context, how might you rephrase the title of this post?
Do you have a preference for either farther or further?
Can you think of another example where the rule may be ambiguous?

Image Credit: Desktop Nexus

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{ 6 comments }

Hilary April 2, 2013 at 4:22 am

Hi Davina .. you test my commenting ability – by posting this on April Fool’s Day … I’m rocking and rolling around the A-Z ..

The further away the camera scanned, the farther away the landscape became …

I’m not sure that’s write .. but you’ll tell me!! Cheers for now – Hilary
Hilary´s last blog post ..B is for Bara …

Hilary April 2, 2013 at 4:23 am

B***** hell .. I can’t even spell right .. just shows where the brain is .. write v right!! H!!!!!!
Hilary´s last blog post ..B is for Bara …

Linda April 2, 2013 at 9:12 am

Davina, thank you for clearing that up. I have wondered about that from time to time and use whichever one seems right at the time. I think I usually get it correct.
Linda´s last blog post ..Quote of the Week

patricia April 2, 2013 at 12:44 pm

After starting school in Canada my teachers in the USA told me that was incorrect and to always use farther and not further – I was not “old “English” my fourth grade teacher stated to me once.

It is one of those grammar rules I never learned but my parents spoke so correctly that I just heard it done “right” and thus just fell into it. It was one way that was easy for me, though because I did not know the rules, well I never did well on those SAT/ACT exams in grammar.

One of my faculty in Graduate School did praise me for using these two words correctly in a paper!

I am writing a piece about the Giraffe having to stick his neck out to reach anything….I do not know if I will post it…but a nice coincidence

Happy Birthday
And Hilary you made me laugh out loud – some days are just like that maybe more so on April Fools!
patricia´s last blog post ..THE CLOVER HOUSE ~Henriette Lazaridis Power

Hilary April 6, 2013 at 6:22 am

Hi Davina .. just come across the answer to this – so had to come back and do yet another entry!

farther (implies physical distance)

further (advancement along a non-physical dimension; to a greater degree)

Thank goodness others tell me … Cheers Hilary
Hilary´s last blog post ..F is for Feasts …

Davina April 8, 2013 at 11:48 am

Hi Hilary.

Lol, I didn’t even consider I was posting this on April Fool’s Day :) Hehe, I’ve written “write” when I meant “right” many times!

Thanks for chipping in with your question! And I see you’ve figure out the answer. Yes, your sentence could work if you’re talking about the camera scanning what is in the distance, as opposed to the photographer moving the camera itself farther away.

You’re welcome, Linda!

Hi Patricia.

Yes, a neat coincidence. I love when those happen. Hilary made me laugh out loud too :)

How nice that the member of the faculty recognized your correct use of these words. A little praise goes a long way. I love how diligent you are when it comes to applying yourself when it comes to grammar.

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