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