The Difference Between Farther and Further

Now You KnowYou should know the difference between “farther” and “further”.

Many people use “further” and “farther” interchangeable, but, in fact, they mean slightly different things.  “Farther” refers to a physical distance, while “further” refers to a figurative distance.  So, when wondering how many more miles or kilometers to a particular destination, you’d say, “How much farther to the gas station?”  On the other hand, when speaking of a figurative measure, you should use “further”. For instance, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Probably the best way to remember the distinction between “farther” and “further” is to think about where you’d use the word “furthermore”.  In this case, you use it much like “in addition to”, which is tied to something figurative.  So just remember “farther” = “physical” and “further” = “figurative”.

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13 comments

  • This only applies to American English. in British English Further is used in every context.

  • “interchangablY”… As far as I am aware, American English also uses adverbs 🙂 BTW, Canadian English uses both for all contexts as well, especially in the east. The west was settled by a different kind of folk.

  • <Mnemonically I prefer to think as "Farther" contains the word "Far" with contains the concept of distance. "Further contains the word "fur" with has absolutely nothing to do with "Further" real meaning.

  • We use farther here in Britain. It’s used in the same way (with the same inconsistency) as elsewhere in the world.

    Possibly interestingly, the farther/further usage is also found in less/fewer. Most people use less when, if the amount is countable, it should be fewer.

  • this is wrong

    “farther” refers to a figurative distance
    not further

  • How about when referring to time? Time is theoretical, so I would say, “On this schedule, this task is furthest behind.” Correct?

  • The Oxford Dictionary simply lists both as “variants”.

    To me, “Farther” invokes an idea of physical “distance” whereas “Further” invokes an idea of “additional information”. However, I am neither a linguist, nor a native english speaker – ( I am Indian) ; and I hate arguments.

    I just want to know what to inform students in my blog. Please help – if possible – with authority.

    Professor Raghu Rao

  • To clean up this vague distinction we should perhaps use “further” only in the sense of an extension to something already defined as an objective. Then “farther” would always mean, “at or to a greater distance or extent compared to another distinct place or objective.” For example, Newton should have used “farther than others” if he was speaking of his discovery of universal gravitation but “further than others” if he meant that he had improved upon the concept of a solar system. To make up a “distinction for dummies” we could go so far as to forbid the use of “further” as an adverb, restricting its use to verbs and, only in the case of extensions, adjectives.

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