Farther vs. Further — What’s the Difference?

Farther and further are two similar words with similar meanings. Both suggest distance or degree, but, like many other This-or-That words, there is a subtle difference! Farther is for physical distance, while further is used for metaphorical distance or degree.

Though confusing the two is easy, this article outlines the differences and when to use each.

When to Use Farther

We use “farther” when referring to physical distance. It’s about a measurable separation in space.

Imagine a race: 

  • “The long-distance runner went farther than she ever had before.” Here, “farther” denotes an increase in physical distance.

Or consider this: 

  • “John lives farther away than Mary.” This sentence clearly indicates a measurable difference in physical location.

Here’s a handy trick: Remember that “farther” contains the word “far,” which relates to physical distance.

When to Use Further

Further is the word of choice when discussing figurative distance, degree, extent, or additional information. It signifies going beyond something that’s already happening or established.

Consider these examples:

  • “Let’s discuss this further when we have more time.” Here, “further” suggests delving deeper into a topic that’s already been introduced.
  • “There’s no further information available at this time.” This sentence implies no additional details exist beyond what’s already known. It’s about the degree or extent of information — not about a physical distance in space.

Further is also used as a verb. In this sense, it means to advance or move something forward. We use this form when we say things like, “She furthered her career.”

Examples of Farther & Further

Understanding the difference between “farther” and “further” can be tricky. Here’s a comparison:

  • Correct: “She traveled farther (physical distance) north to find a colder climate.” 
  • Correct: “She wanted to learn further (additional knowledge) about the region’s unique culture.”
  • Incorrect: “We need to discuss this farther.” (Use “further” for metaphorical distance or degree.)
  • Incorrect: “She walked further into the forest than he did.” (Use “farther” for physical distance.)

Examples of Farther

  • “We need to travel farther south to reach the beach.”
  • “The mountain range seemed to stretch farther than the eye could see.”
  • “How much farther do we have to walk?”

Examples of Further

  • “I need to investigate this matter further.” (This implies going beyond a preliminary investigation.)
  • “Are there any further questions?” (This asks if there are additional questions beyond any that might have already been asked.)
  • “The new policy has further strained relations between the two countries.” (This suggests the policy has intensified an existing tension.)

Exceptions and Overlap

It’s important to note that language is constantly evolving. Recently, there’s been a growing acceptance of using “farther” metaphorically in informal contexts and using “further” to denote physical distance. 

Merriam-Webster Online notes this example from The Guardian:

  • “Further down the river, the boat carrying Phillips and Pereira powered homewards through the darkness towards a perfect full moon.”

We may call this technically “incorrect,” but again, language constantly changes.

Especially in informal speech, there might be some overlap in usage. However, maintaining the distinction between physical and metaphorical distance is still recommended for formal writing.

Need Help with Farther, Further, and More?

Getting words right in your writing or speech is crucial for clear and effective communication.

If you find it challenging to differentiate between these words or simply don’t want to worry about getting it wrong in the future, enlist EditorNinja’s professional editing services. We’ll ensure that your writing is clear, correct, and professional. Schedule a no-stress, no-risk, super-friendly discussion with our team to discuss your editing needs today!