Today’s post is dedicated to my mom.
My mom was an English teacher for many years and remains very loyal to those roots, always noting misuse of phrases and punctuation and encouraging people to use them correctly. Which often puts me in the middle of a tiff between the grammarian mom and the linguist husband. I agree with both and tend to side against whoever is being more dogmatic about it.
But among all the gaffes that bug my mom, I think mistaking farther and further are near the very top of the list. Because they get misused SO often. Professionally.
In my opinion, whatever kind of English you want to use when u txt ur bff is fine. But if you want to present yourself well on occasion, it’s good to know how to correctly use words and phrases. And at work you should always make the added effort, because your misuse becomes a reflection of your company. And if you desire any upward mobility, you should probably care about representing your company well.
As for farther and further, they are misused so often that it’s very difficult to “catch” the correct way to use them. So what is a person to do?
Consult Grammar Girl, of course!
If you’re interested in a more exhaustive whole farther/further explanation, check out her article on it. Here we’re just getting down to the nitty gritty basics. And if you remember nothing else from this riveting post, please at least walk away with this:
Farther and further are not interchangeable.
If you remember this, you can always look up the specifics when you’re stuck.
The Difference Between Farther and Further
The difference between farther and further is that one refers to metaphorical distance (as in to discuss something further) and one refers to physical distance (as in the mountains are farther inland than where I live).
So which is which?
- Farther refers to physical distance.
- Further refers to figurative distance.
I use Grammar Girl’s memory trick to keep them straight: “farther” has the word “far” in it, and “far” refers to physical distance.
In that light, “further” becomes this kind of other word (since “fur” doesn’t seem to directly relate). And this helps me remember that it’s used for figurative or metaphorical situations. “Further” doesn’t relate literally like “farther” does.
What if it’s not obviously physical or metaphorical?
I can’t say it any better than Grammar Girl:
The quick and dirty tip is that “farther” relates to physical distance and “further” relates to figurative distance. If you can’t decide which one to use, you’re safer using “further” because “farther” has some restrictions, and if you tend to get confused, try using “furthermore” instead of “further.”
…what about you?…
What’s your history with further and farther? Were you already distinguishing between them? Do you notice when others use them incorrectly?