Farther, Further

How to Use Farther and Further for Further Progress in Grammar

by Owen Fourie

If you have to travel five miles to college, and I have to go ten miles to get there, I have to travel five miles farrer than you.

Something wrong? Oh! The word farrer, you say, is not a word, so I can’t use it as a comparative of far.

Actually, it is a word, and it was originally the regular comparative of far. It gave way to further a long time ago and is now obsolete.

Farther (not to be confused with your dad or father) was a later variant of further. [The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1973. Print]

Which one of the two words should you use?

Don’t be flustered by this. You can use either one according to your preference. You’ll find, though, that further is the word that is commonly used.

What you should note about the usage of further and farther is the development that has brought the following preferences.

When to use farther

If you are talking or writing about physical distance, use farther. Let’s apply this to the opening statement of this article and three other sentences:

  1. If you have to travel five miles to college, and I have to go ten miles to get there, I have to travel five miles farther than you.
  2. Cairo is farther from New York than London is from New York.
  3. Having done so much walking today, we feel that we can go no farther, so we’ll camp here for the night.
  4. We can see two lighthouses from here and the farther lighthouse has the brighter light.

In the above examples, it would not be wrong to use further instead of farther, but farther is preferred for physical distance.

Perhaps, the appearance of far in farther will help you to remember this usage.

When to use further

Although it is not wrong to use further for physical distance, the distinction that has developed reserves further for meanings other than physical distance.

  1. We had already encountered many difficulties on the expedition, but further problems lay ahead when our guide became ill.
  2. We were five days away from the nearest village, so we had to think further about our alternatives.
  3. We wondered if we could really stretch our limited supplies any further if the journey took longer than we had originally planned.
  4. The leader of the expedition asked for further ideas to circumvent disaster.

Further is also used as a verb

In the above examples, further and farther are used as adverbs or adjectives.

Further can also be used as a verb—a usage that would be awkward for farther.

  1. We decided that making our guide as comfortable as possible and persisting on our trek would further our chances of survival.
  2. We agreed that we could also further our guide’s speedy recovery by maintaining a buoyant spirit.
  3. In this way we furthered our expedition and achieved our objective.

This should be enough to help you to use farther and further correctly, so we do not need to go further.


Which of these two words do you prefer to use for distance? Which do you prefer for non-distance? What are your reasons for your choice? Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

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