It’s like the universe is speaking to me. First, my husband asked me to explain the difference between “further” and “farther.” Then I had a dream that a PMer called me out for using one incorrectly. (It was actually more of a nightmare.) The next day, I saw a grammarly.com post on Facebook that had a brief blurb about it. Finally, today, a vendor used “farther” on a conference call, and I spent the next minute thinking about whether or not he’d used it properly instead of focusing on his update. (Grammar can be so distracting.)
So instead of sticking to my editorial calendar—I should be writing about our overuse of the word “just”—I give you this, a brief treatise on “further” vs. “farther.”
According to “Webster’s Dictionary,” “further” means “to or at a more distant place in time” or “to a greater degree or extent.” “Farther” means “at or to a greater distance or more advanced point.”
While the terms are similar, “farther” refers to physical distances, while “further” is more figurative. Consider these examples:
- “Parking farther away will ensure that PMers are safe from my poor driving skills.” In that sentence, I’m clearly talking about distance, so “farther” is the correct term to use.
- “I further annoyed the police by speeding out of Camp Dearborn a mere four hours after speeding into it.” Here the use of “further” is more figurative versus literal.
Sometimes, however, the distinction isn’t so clear. Consider: “I made it farther/further into “Infinite Jest” than she did.” You could argue that I’m referring to the actual number of pages (farther) or the figurative distance within the storyline (further). What to do?
According to the experts, it’s fully acceptable to use the terms interchangeably when the distinction is unclear. This means you have permission to do whatever you want—a rarity when it comes to grammar.
So there you have it. Come back next time for a brief essay on why I’m trying to stop using the word “just”—unless the universe intervenes once again.
Something tells me it’s got better things to do.