Although they are often used interchangeably, further and farther don't have exactly the same meaning. Basically, farther refers to actual distances between objects while further refers to figurative distances or something that is additional or more. Here are some easy-to-understand definitions and examples of how to use the two words.
Farther refers to a greater physical distance, a distance that has been measured.
When used as an adjective, farther describes when one object is more distant than the other, requiring a measurement of the distance from one common point to both objects.
- The red car is farther away than the blue car.
- The raft carried the family farther north than they had planned.
- The ice cream shop at the farther end of the boardwalk is cheaper.
When used as an adverb, farther indicates an action that results in a greater distance.
- The red car was driven farther than the blue car.
- Looking up, she realized she had swum farther than she'd thought.
- They couldn't walk any farther that day.
Further is defined as something that is additional or more, as well as referring to distance. It is used when there is no knowledge of the actual physical or time difference.
When used as an adverb, further expresses a relationship to a place or time, something additional or to a greater degree.
- I have much further to go before I can stop for the night.
- We need to research further into this matter.
- He was further annoyed by a second interruption.
When used as an adjective, further describes a distance or something that is beyond or additional. It can also refer to something that is greater in degree or amount.
- The council gave no further details on the new development.
- Joe could tolerate no further indiscretions.
When functioning as a verb, further refers to an action of helping something move forward, usually in a symbolic rather than a literal sense.
- I need to take that extra course to further my education.
- How can we use social media to further the brand?
- To further their cause, they created an online petition.
One of our YourDictionary readers shared a great way to help you use further and farther correctly:
"If you can't replace further with additional or more in a sentence, you are probably using it incorrectly."
So, remember, you need to measure to use farther, but you can use further in almost all other situations. However, if there is some confusion between it being a physical or figurative distance, it is now considered fine to use either word.
Ready to tackle some other potentially challenging word pairs? Learn the difference between affect and effect. Or do you understand the difference between an abbreviation and an acronym? Study up and you'll further your command of the English language.