Differentiating two words that go the distance…
Do you use
interchangeably? You’re not alone. The terms have very similar meanings, and English speakers have been using them as synonyms for centuries. But if you’re ready to get picky, there is one major difference that can guide your usage of these words!
The widely accepted rule is to use farther when being literal and discussing a physical distance, as in “He went farther down the road.” Further is used when discussing a more symbolic distance or to discuss a degree or extent, as in “I wanted to discuss it further, but we didn’t have time.”
Additionally, when used as a verb, further means to advance. So, you can “further a project” (but you can’t farther a project, because farther doesn’t have a verb sense). Further also has an adverbial definition of “moreover; additionally,” so you can say “And further, you hurt my feelings” (but not farther).
Ready to put your newfound word skills to good use? Take the quiz below to see how well you know the difference between further and farther.
And remember, while this is a guide to good usage, the physical vs. figurative distinction isn’t always adhered to in popular usage—a fact that you’ll find reflected in our definitions for the 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.