What is the difference between farther and further? Are they the same thing? Or is there a difference between the two?
The answers to the questions above are as follows:
Farther and further actually both relate to ‘a greater distance’ and are adverbs in that sense. They can therefore be used interchangeably.
Let us take a critical look at them one after the other.
Farther, according to the Longman English dictionary is an adverb which means a greater distance than before or than another thing. It is said to be a comparative form of the word ‘far’. For example:
- John decided not to go any farther because he was getting tired.
- Three miles farther north you will come across the city.
- The building farther up the road is mine.
- The heavy storm forced the boats to drift farther apart.
Further, according to the Longman English dictionary can be defined as a greater distance or beyond a particular point or place. For example:
- Tom walked a little further and then stopped because he was exhausted.
- My house is located further away from the city than my brother’s.
- He walked further down the road while I stood watching.
- Mark and his family have never been further south than Mexico.
As you can clearly see from the above definitions and examples, both further and farther mean the same and can be used interchangeably when referring to distance whether figuratively or literally.
In the above examples, we looked at further and farther being used for literal distances. In the examples below, we are going to see how they can also be used for figurative distances. Examples:
- How much further does he want to take this issue?
- Tom is taking this argument farther than I thought he would.
- Mr. Brown is taking the case further to the Supreme Court.
- The press is taking this issue farther than is good for the nation.
NB: Some grammarians insist that further should be used with only nonphysical distances or figurative distances whereas if you are talking about a literal distance you can use both further and farther interchangeably. Interestingly many schools of thoughts do not agree with that, myself included. There is no rule in English Language that support their statement. No English grammar rule says that further should only be used for nonphysical distances or figurative distances.
In the United Kingdom for instance, further and farther are used interchangeably for both physical distance and figurative distance, however further is normally chosen for all senses instead of farther.
But when you take a trip to the United States, you find out that Americans use farther more often for physical distances and use further for nonphysical distances.