Do you use farther and further interchangeably? You’re not alone. These two terms have very similar meanings and English speakers have been using them interchangeably for centuries. However, there are subtle differences between the terms, and the distinction that informs good usage is fairly straightforward. Let’s take a look.
The widely accepted rule is to use farther to discuss physical distances, as in “He went farther down the road.” Further should be used for figurative distance or to discuss degree or extent, as in ”I wanted to discuss it further, but we didn’t have time.”
Additionally, you can further, or advance, a project, but you can’t farther a project—farther doesn’t have a verb sense. Further also has an adverbial sense of “moreover; additionally,” so you can say “Further, you hurt my feelings,” but not farther.
While the above is a general guide to good usage, the physical vs. figurative distance distinction isn’t always adhered to in popular usage, a fact that you’ll find reflected in our definitions for these two terms. However, knowing the difference between good usage and popular usage will set you apart in formal settings and in the company of style-guide devotees.
We hope this explanation has furthered your understanding of these two terms!
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