Farther and further

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Farther and further

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feb 12, 2008, 5:12pm

Anyone up to clarifying the use of farther and furthur? Is it farthur down the road or furthur? Do we need to do farthur or further reading to unravel this ball of yarn? Any help out there?

feb 12, 2008, 5:17pm

According to The Little Oxford Dictionary farther is var. of further; farthest is var. of furthest; so, makes no difference.

feb 12, 2008, 5:42pm

I was browsing around and came across lessontutor.com. They claim there is a clear difference. Farthur denotes physical advancement in distance and furthur denotes advancement to a greater degree, as in time. I find this hard to pinpoint. "For further information and details of our..." and "Poetry and prose when they advance into the most mystical regions will depart farther and farther from music" Does this make any sense? The reason behind this is that my students have asked and I'm stuck.

feb 12, 2008, 5:49pm

A typical editor's answer is the same as you found at lessontutor.com: "farther" is for physical distance, "further" is for abstract distance (so, "farther away" and "further reading"). But you will find attestations of the two words used in free variation for hundreds of years. There is nothing actually wrong about using them as synonyms.

PS--Prescriptive usage is, in some ways, the converse of linguistics.

feb 13, 2008, 12:57pm

An interesting discussion, particularly in the comments about the differences between the two words can be found at: http://hubpages.com/hub/Grammar_Mishaps__Farther_vs_Further

Further can be used as an adjective in sometihing: "For further information, contact John."

Also, further as a verb, "Mike furthered the agenda by bringing up the ABC contract."

In neither case can farther be interchanged.

feb 13, 2008, 2:04pm

Fowler has two whole pages on the subject. As nperrin implied, in language, nothing is definitive, but farther is mainly used for linear distance comparisons. It seems that you might say "Of those ships, the white one is farther away" (but further is acceptable as well), but you would say "The red wine stain is spreading further" (and farther would not be appropriate in this circumstance).

feb 13, 2008, 7:58pm

My own use of the words has farther as a variant of the adjectival/adverbial use of further, but not the verbal.

feb 26, 2008, 7:40am

Thanks vpfluke, it is somewhat clearer at this point.
Grammar mishaps was a help.

feb 26, 2008, 7:54am

I agree with maggie1944 at #2: "... makes no difference." There are lots of cases in English and other languages where exactly the same thing can be said in different ways, and prescriptivists, journalists with space to fill and style guide writers keep coming up with silly distinctions without any evidence that these distinctions have ever been observed by ordinary people or by 'good' writers.

mar 2, 2008, 5:00pm

Makes it a hard language to teach.

mar 7, 2008, 3:14pm

I was puzzled by this one when I formally studied grammar in my middle-age - growing up with British parents I used farther/further for distance. But in my grammar class I learned farther relates to distance, and further to time (as in "furthermore..."). Think the latter might be a North American distinction. I have noticed in the many British books I read, they use both farther/further as I would for distance.

mar 7, 2008, 7:28pm

O.E.D. says: "The forms farthur/further displaced the regular compar. of FAR adverb, adjective as being largely coincident in meaning. Until recently, farthur was preferred of physical distance, further in figurative contexts, but further is now usual in all contexts."

jun 27, 2008, 5:57pm

Farther relates to space and further covers everything else. A good way to remeber is by associating "A"'s. (A retired nun told me this.) Midi

sep 11, 2008, 12:04pm

Practical English usage (3rd edition) by Michael Swan says:

- "We use both _farther_ and _further_ to talk about distance. They mean the same."
- "Further (but not farther) can mean 'additional', 'extra', 'more advanced'". Examples: _further information_ but not _*farther information_; _further education_, but not _*farther education_

FWIW, I learned British English, and for me this doesn't read as a prescriptive rant: it's just the way I use English. _Farther/further_ for physical distance, _further_ for the rest.

sep 12, 2008, 1:10am

Now, now, let's not get further mixed up with Furthur:



sep 12, 2008, 8:25am

From the Marx Brothers movie Horesefeathers:

Zeppo: Anything further, father?

Groucho: Shouldn't that be "anything farther further?"

jan 9, 2010, 9:52pm

Their is to kines of peeple: thoz hoo say, "Az long az yew can understand, its alright." Theez peeple ar welcum two there own verzhun of friedom without enny kine of ruel.

There is also the kind of people who say, "Let's not get hung up on this rule thing, but in order for us to understand each other, we have to have SOME rules."

The two types of people neither agree with nor even understand each other.

It is the current fashion to be as descriptive as one wishes. It is a kind of political correctness, yet English usage continues to slide toward incomprehensibility. The language changes; we accept new words, new forms. This is a sign of a healthy language. Yet, these new forms and words need to be subsumed into an already-existing and continuing set of patterns. Otherwise, the entire definition of "language" needs to be changed to "a bunch of words".

I'm for freedom, not for anarchy.

jan 13, 2010, 7:54pm

linguistic anarchy soon, if not immediately leads to incomprehensibility.