Adjectives, adverbs and verbs, oh my! There are so many ways to use these two words, it’s no wonder we often misuse them or choose one that works but is a little less correct. That’s because historically, these words have been somewhat interchangeable; even Merriam-Webster says so. Let’s break them down into some simple usage rules of thumb.
The quickest and simplest adage that differentiates these words is that “you can travel farther, but you can only look further into something.” In other words, based on this simple explanation, “farther” is more often used for physical distance and “further” is used for something more figurative.
If you stop there, we won’t think less of you, but if you want to fine-tune your use of these words by looking further into usage, please read on.
“Further” means additionally or moreover, a definition not shared by “farther.” “Farther” doesn’t work very well as an adverb. Consider the following:
- I would like to further dissect this brainstorming session and create SMART goals.
- I would like to farther dissect this brainstorming session and create SMART goals.
This is where it gets a little more interchangeable, but “further” has been increasing in use, even with distance. However, when picking one to mean “additional,” go with “further.”
- Correct: How much farther is it until we are officially out of Dodge?
- Correct: How much further until we take a left turn at Albuquerque?
- Correct: How much further evidence do you need?
- Incorrect: How much farther evidence do you need?
These days, “further” is the only option out of these two that is used as a verb.
- Correct: She attempted to further her progress as a world-class soccer player, hoping to make the Olympic team.
Incorrect: He attempted to farther his career by allowing his boss and her family to stay at his condo in Honolulu once a year.
— Sarah Muench