Farther vs. Further

What is the difference?


Farther and further are two very similar words in the English language. When do you use each one?

The two words only have small differences in their spellings, pronunciations, and meanings. Despite these similarities, the words are used in different contexts. Knowing when to use farther and when to use further properly is a skill that will impress even native English speakers.

Let's look at some examples to help you learn this important distinction.

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses


Farther

Farther means at or to a greater distance.  It deals with physical distance. A physical distance is a distance that can be measured using a tool like a measuring tape or a ruler, though it may take quite a few of them for large distances!

Examples:

  1. He drives farther down the road.
    (His car moves to a more distant point on the road.)

    He drives farther down the road.
  2. I wish I could get farther from you.
    (I wish there was more physical space between us.)

    I wish I could get farther from you.
  3. The lake is farther away than it looks.
    (There is more distance between us and the lake than it looks like.)

    The lake is farther away than it looks.
  4. How much farther do I have to run?
    (How much more distance do I have to run from where I am?)

    How much farther do I have to run?
  5. He doesn't want to walk any farther.
    (He does not want to walk to a more distant point.)
    He doesn't want to walk any farther.


Further

Further means at or to a greater distance (the same meaning as farther).

So what's the difference? Further deals with non-physical distance, instead of physical distance.

Non-physical distance cannot be measured using a tool like a ruler. It is often helpful to think of non-physical distance as an imaginary path.  For example, movement (progression) in time, a course of study, a career, or a conversation.

As a verb, further means to move something along (to advance it).

Examples:

  1. She can't go any further in the relationship.
    (She can't continue on the non-physical path of the relationship.)

    She can't go any further in the relationship.
  2. He says that discussing this further is just a waste of time.
    (He says that it is not worth it to spend more time continuing this conversation.)

    He says that discussing this further is just a waste of time.
  3. He takes a class to further his education.
    (Taking a class moves him to the next step on the non-physical path of his education.)

    He takes a class to further his education.
  4. The train is delayed even further.
    (The train is running even later than it already was.)

    The train is delayed even further.
  5. That story can't be any further from the truth.
    (That story is so full of lies that it cannot have any more distance between it and the truth.)

    That story can't be any further from the truth.


Tips

Knowing the difference between farther and further is something many people struggle with. However, if you can just remember one tip, you'll never mix them up again. Just know that farther only deals with physical distance, while further deals with non-physical distance.

But what happens when you don't know if the distance is physical or not? Sometimes, the distance can be both.

For example, imagine you say, "I can't get any further in this book!"

Your friend replies, "Don't you mean you can't get any farther?"

You explain that you mean further, because you are discussing the non-physical distance of the storyline.

Your friend insists that farther is correct, because your progress in the book is measured by the physical distance of the number of pages read.

Who is correct? The good news is, you both are! When you are discussing something that could be either physical or metaphorical, use whichever word you want.

A book


A Story to Practice Farther vs. Further

Jarrod runs a little farther each day as he tries to further his career as a runner. When he was a child, Jarrod dreamed of being able to run farther than anyone else.

When he first started training, he couldn't have been further from his goal. He couldn't run farther than a mile without stopping. Through extensive training, though, he was able to further his athletic abilities, so now he can run farther than ever before.

With each step Jarrod takes, he gets further away from his old self and farther away from where he started running.

Jarrod runs a little farther each day as he tries to further his career as a runner.


Quiz

Answer the following 10 questions and then check your answers. Each question is worth 10 points.

Part 1:

  1. Which of the following is NOT a correct definition of farther?
    1. At a great distance
    2. More distant than something else
    3. To move something along
    4. All of the above are acceptable definitions

  2. Which of the following is NOT a correct definition of further?
    1. At a great distance
    2. More distant than something else
    3. To move something along
    4. All of the above are acceptable definitions

  3. What is the main difference between farther and further?
    1. Farther deals with physical distance; further deals with non-physical distance
    2. Farther deals with non-physical distance; further deals with physical distance
    3. Farther refers to the future; further refers to the past
    4. Farther refers to the past; further refers to the future

  4. Which of the following is an example of a physical distance?
    1. The plot of a story
    2. A measure of time
    3. The length of a football field
    4. The progress toward a goal

  5. Which of the following is an example of a non-physical distance?
    1. The number of miles you run
    2. The distance between you and the refrigerator
    3. The number of pages you have read
    4. The length of a conversation

Part 2:

  1. Which of the following is true?
    1. Farther and further cannot be verbs.
    2. Farther and further can both be verbs.
    3. Only farther can be a verb.
    4. Only further can be a verb.

  2. Which of the following can be a noun?
    1. Further
    2. Farther
    3. All of the above
    4. None of the above  

Part 3:

  1. Let's drive just a few miles ___________.
    1. farther
    2. further
    3. farthers
    4. furthered

  2. Before this deal goes any ___________, we need to talk about money.
    1. furthers
    2. farthered
    3. farther
    4. further

  3. She asked for more training to ___________ her career.
    1. farther
    2. farthered
    3. furthered
    4. further


Answer Key

1. C | 2. D | 3. A | 4. C | 5. D | 1. D | 2. D | 1. A | 2. D | 3. D


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