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Farther vs. further

Farther and further both mean at a greater distance, and they are used interchangeably in this sense. In the United States, though, farther is more often used to refer to physical distances, and further more often refers to figurative and nonphysical distances. For example, we might say that one mountain is farther away than another, while we might say the price of a stock (a nonphysical thing) fell further today than yesterday. This is not a rule, however, and further is often used for physical distances. The distinction does not exist in the U.K. and elsewhere in the (British) Commonwealth of Nations, where further is preferred for all senses of the word and farther is rare.

Further has senses it does not share with farther. It works as an adjective meaning additional—e.g., “I have no further questions.” It works as an adverb meaning additionally—e.g., “He said he did not spend the money, and stated further that he had never even received it.” And it works as a verb meaning to advance (something)—e.g., “This website is meant to further understanding of 21st-century English.” Farther is not commonly used these ways.

The physical/nonphysical distinction in the U.S. extends to the superlatives farthest and furthest. Furthermore is an adverbial extension of further and often bears replacement with the shorter word. The rare furthermost is sometimes used to mean farthest or furthest, and it likewise bears replacement with the shorter words.

Examples

In these sentences, farther refers to physical distances:


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Farther south, in Central Otago, there are some even harsher mountains. [Telegraph]

Making people park a little farther away will actually increase their exposure to danger, he added. [Red Wing Republican Eagle]

Pyzik said the testing cells would be located farther from the school than initially proposed. [Chicago Tribune]

And in these examples, further refers to figurative and non-physical distances—for example:

The Dollar is extending its gains against the Euro. EUR/USD fell further to 1.3430, hitting a fresh daily low. [NASDAQ]

So the mechanism that was initially meant to be protective can become the source of further damage. [Indy Posted]

Reliable measurements of the Sun’s magnetic field are only available from 1900 onwards, so researchers used computer simulations for further back in time. [Daily Mail]

Many counterexamples could be found, however, and using further in place of farther is never an error.

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Comments

  1. thank you. This brief article confirmed to me a choise of the words upon which I had some doubts.

  2. Thank you very much. English is my second language. I studied for 8 and a half years in the UK. I have always used “further” for both senses. When I saw the film Finding Forrester in which the distinction was mentioned, I started to have serious doubts about my English proficiency. No other websites or reference books I have read mention the distinction between BE and AE usage. This is the first. Thank you.

  3. Andy Castor says:

    Farther is not only rare in English English – it is wrong!

    • it’s in the OED…

    • KenSanDiego says:

      If the defining characteristics of each word can effect a better understanding of the author’s intent, I am all for the distinction stated herein. i.e. “While George was tasked with making the 100 mile drive, and got farther from the town he so loved, he was also leaving his father behind, only distancing himself further from the people he loved most.”

      From a literary perspective, I love the distinction.

  4. Randy Karpinen says:

    U.S. English tends to be more conservative than British or other Common Wealth variants of the language. Using further as a verb meaning to advance something is closest to the German fördern, from which the English further derives.

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