Further Away versus Farther Away

further away versus farther away
There are times when English can be confusing, even to native speakers who learned the language from the cradle. One of the common areas of confusion arises when we have to choose between two words which seem to be almost the same. Learning to properly understand the different uses of different words is one aspect of improving your vocabulary.

For example, the question whether to use “further away” or “farther away” can be confusing. They look very similar, and their meanings are similar too. When we’re talking, few people would even notice the difference, but when we’re writing, we need to be more precise and choose our words carefully. How will we know when to use “further” and when to use “farther?” Luckily, there’s a very simple way to work it out when you proofread your writing. It’s the difference between literal distance and figurative distance.

Distances can be literal or figurative

When we refer to distance, it can be either literal or figurative. For example:

“How much farther will we have to drive to reach our hotel?”

In this example, the person asking the question is looking for a literal distance. They want to know how many miles they will have to travel to reach their destination. “Farther” is completely correct in this context.

In the following example, our distance is figurative:

“Would you like me to explain this further?”

Obviously, the answer here can’t be “Five miles” because we aren’t looking at a literal distance.

The good news is there’s a simple and useful trick to remembering the difference. To make your life easier, you can remember the correct use for “farther” by looking at the first syllable, “Far.” Now think of all the distance measurements. There are miles, kilometers, centimeters, inches and so on. Would you associate these measurements with what you are going to say? If so, then “farther” is the word you should be choosing in order to be 100% correct.

Now consider “further” as being an “add-on”:

“You can have a further $5.”
“It will be a further year before you finish your studies.”
“I was further insulted by her rude behavior on Sunday.”

It tells you that something extra is going to be added.

Interchangeability: just to make you more confused

Now that we have a clear explanation of when to use the word “farther” rather than “further” it’s time to muddy the waters a little. Although you shouldn’t use “farther” at times when “further” is the more appropriate choice, there are times when you can use “further” instead of “farther.” There are even some who advise you to choose “further” when in doubt.

People have been using these two words interchangeably for a long time, and in other parts of the world where English is spoken, “further” is used much more often, while few people use “farther” at all. But if you want to fit in with accepted modern American grammar, it’s important to remember the simple distinction between the literal distance “farther” and the figurative distance “further.” If you are writing a report or an essay, you need to choose the correct word, and the usages we’ve just discussed are accepted as correct in both the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook.

But there are still cases in American grammar in which we will find that the two words are interchangeable. For instance:

“How much farther do you have to read?” and “How much further do you have to read?” would both be correct. After all, you could be asking someone how many pages they still need to read to finish the book, or you could be asking if they will have to read more books or more chapters to get the information they need. In the first example, you’re asking for a literal distance in the number of pages. In the second example, you’re asking for a figurative distance. As with so many other grammar rules, context is very important.

Let’s keep it simple. If reading this has made you more confused than ever, then just hold onto this thought:

“Farther” is a distance and “further” is something extra. How easy is that?

38 comments

  1. Thank you for this. I needed a simple explanation and this did the trick. I will remember that farther is distance related and that should keep me safe 90% of the time.

    1. It’s always great to see that people find the articles useful. If this article has managed to help you understand the difference between further and farther, then it was 100% worth writing. I’m glad that any confusion you had between these two words is no longer an issue.

    2. I don’t know why these two words confuse me so much. I intellectually understand the difference, but I always seem to interchange them and use the wrong one. It bothers me to no end…

      1. You aren’t the only person who does this. I often use the wrong one even though I know the difference between the two. I blame it on AutoCorrect.

        1. AutoCorrect has made me use the wrong word time and time again. I know the difference between the two words, but apparently autocorrect doesn’t and wants me to look foolish.

  2. Very enlightening article! These two little words further and farther has definitely caused a bit of confusion in my world. Thanks for clearing this up for me:) …now I can expand my vocabulary further…did I say that right? lol…

  3. I believe that these two words are not interchangeable. Farther is used when you talk about how far from a definite point of origin and destination. Further is used without a definite point of origin and destination.

  4. I totally agree that sometimes farther and further can be interchangeable. But for somebody to easily understand what you are talking about, then you have to use each word differently.

  5. Aside from father and further, English has many confusing words. However, you can learn by reading – like the article above. It helps a lot.

  6. Wow, thank you for this. I don’t think I’ve ever used ‘farther’ in my life. There’s also toward and towards – confusing. Never know when to put the s.

  7. This was a helpful article. A lot of people do get confused with words such as these. I think reading helps a lot with understanding what a certain word means. Frequent usage of these words in your sentences can also be helpful.

  8. This article is very helpful. English is very complicated, especially grammar. So I think it is really important for us to know the difference of these two.

  9. I teach English and this article is very useful for me. People sometimes mistakenly use these two, especially for non-native English speakers. However, I also agree that even native English speakers can get confused about this.

  10. Most of my acquaintances, as well as myself, who use English as a second language, had been confused by this for quite some time. It made coffee breaks rather interesting though! The simple explanations cleared things up. Now we have to find other stuff to argue about!

  11. Thank you! At least I got something new from this. Didn’t realized those differences. Furttthhherrr awayyy! haha. New info,thanks.

  12. My teacher sent me to this article so that I could better understand the difference between the two. They both still see to be about the same to me. I don’t think teachers should care which one we use and just know what we mean if we use either. That would be easiest for everyone involved.

  13. As a student who is learning English as a second language, words like these are confusing. Further or farther — they seem to be the same. I can never get them right. I wish English wasn’t so confusing!!

  14. There are a lot like this. Who and whom is another example. Or except and accept. It can be difficult, especially those learning English as a second language. Further away isn’t distance I now understand. That’s good to know.

  15. “further” verses “farther” has always been one that confused me. Why did they have to make not only the meaning be so similar, but the spelling of the two words be so similar? I think that’s what confuses a lot of people, too. Not only are their meanings almost the same, but the way they are pronounced and spelled are almost the same. It’s no wonder people confuse further for farther and farther for further all the time.

  16. It’s all too confusing. I’m surprised the English language doesn’t have firther, ferther and forther to go along with further and farther.

  17. Do people really not know the difference between these two words? This is elementary level stuff. How did you ever get into junior high school not knowing this? I guess this shows what out education has come to that adults don’t even know the difference between these two words.

    1. It doesn’t pay to pass judgment when you don’t know why a person is asking this question. There are a lot of people who are learning English, or who came to this country after growing up in another country. Yes, some people may not have had a good education, but my guess is that’s not why most of the people are trying to find out the difference. If this were the case, they wouldn’t care what the difference was. You might want to show a little bit more consideration before you start making blanket statements.

    2. @Samantha

      I am learning English as my 4th language. Do you speak anything other t English? Maybe you should think a bit more before trying to make yourself feel superior to others who are trying to improve themselves!

  18. This has been one thing I have always struggled with seeing that English is my second language. I’m so glad it was made easier to understand with this article. The words seem so alike it’s easy to confuse them.

  19. What if you don’t put “away” at the end of both further and farther? Does it make a difference? Are these two sentences the same?

    I want to go further.
    I want to go farther.

    These seemed to me to mean the same thing but am I wrong?

    1. They do not mean the same thing — the same applies with or without the “away” at the end. One is distance and the other figurative.

  20. Just leaving a note here to say “thank you” for writing this easy-to-understand explanation on further and further. As a homeschool mom, it makes it a lot easier when I come across explanations like this to teach my kids the difference.

  21. I knew the answer to this because there was a radio spot for a local advanced learning school in my area that used it as part of the reason kids should attend. I was just checking to make sure they were correct in the way they explained it.

  22. This seems overly complicated for two words that only have a single letter difference. I just use them interchangeably and nobody seems to notice the difference. If I can get my point across, what difference does it make?

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