How to Remember When to Use ‘Further’ Versus ‘Farther’

How to Remember When to Use ‘Further’ Versus ‘Farther’

The English language is full of words that sound similar and mean similar things, but do retain their own special place if we want to use them precisely. Who and whom. Affect and effect. Sympathy and empathy. Utmost and upmost. And the especially vexing lay, lie, lain, and laid. Another that tends to trip people up is the oh-so-similar further versus farther.

Now, before we go any further, we should acknowledge that the reason you might be mixing these up is because they’ve been mixed up and used interchangeably for so long that the waters are pretty murky. As Merriam-Webster points out:

The problem of distinguishing between further and farther is compounded by the fact that each of these words can be an adverb, adjective, or a verb, and has multiple meanings in some of these parts of speech. In certain cases you would do well to use one over the other, in other cases there is a degree of leeway, and in still others it doesn’t much matter which one you use. Welcome to English.

But we don’t need to get too lost in the weeds here. Both words are used to indicate greater degrees of something. To choose the right one, in most cases, the difference is simple: Use farther when you’re referring to physical distance, and use further for figurative distance.

You ran farther today than you did yesterday. Your parents live farther away from you than your sister does. The road is blocked, so you can’t go any farther. You are looking to further your career, though. We’re further illustrating the point here. Do we need to discuss this any further?

If you need a trick to remember which is which, remember that farther refers to how far something is. Further refers to everything else.

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