So is there any difference between the words “farther” and “further?” It seems like people use them interchangeably all the time, but is this correct? I get questions about these two words just about every week, and they can be tricky—after all, they’re only one letter a part from each other. In this post I want to go over the differences between these two words, how they work, and some ways to tell them apart. After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever mix up farther vs. further again.
The word farther originated from Old English feorr, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch ver, from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit para and Greek pera ‘further’. The word further originated from Old English furthor (adverb), furthra (adjective), fyrthrian (verb), of Germanic origin; related to forth.
Farther as comparative adverb:
The word farther is used as a comparative adverb which means at, to, or by a great distance (used to indicate the extent to which one thing is distant from another). The traditional rule for these two words states that “farther” should be used for references to physical distance.
Further as comparative adverb:
Further is also used as a comparative adverb which means at, to, or by a greater distance (used to indicate the extent to which one thing or person is or becomes distant from another).While “farther” is used for measurable physical distances, “further” is used when referring to a figurative distance, a metaphorical advancement, or an extension of time or degree.
Farther or further:
Is it farther or further? Of course, this depends on the context of your sentence. Farther is used for physical and measurable distances. Further is used for figurative distances or metaphorical advancement. This rule also applies to farthest and furthest.