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Farther or Further?


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Ask a Teacher: Farther or Further?
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This week we answer a question from Sophia. She writes:

Question:

What is the difference between "farther" and "further?" - Sophia

Answer:

Dear Sophia,

This is a good question. It is easy to get the two terms mixed up. They both deal with distance.

The word "farther" has to do with an actual, physical distance -- one that can be measured. "Further" can have several meanings, but they are likely to deal with ideas, not a physical distance.

We will look at "farther" first. It can be used as an adjective.

For example, make believe you and a friend are walking to a restaurant.

“Sophia,” she says, “Are we anywhere near that eatery you always talk about? I am just so hungry!”

“Don’t worry,” you say. “We are almost there! My favorite place is a little farther down the road, past all the fast food restaurants. Only five more minutes!”

"Farther" can also be used as an adverb, like in the following example, well known to parents taking a trip with young children.

Mommy! Are we there yet? How much farther do we have to go until we get there?!

In both examples, the word "farther" relates to an actual physical distance. In the first case, it is a five-minute walk. In the second example, there may be many more hours in the car. Good luck, parents!

Now, “further” can be used as an adverb, adjective or a verb. None of these have a measurable distance.

Let’s take each one.

As an adverb, “further” means “to a greater extent,” such as in this sentence:

The scientists are looking further into the research.

When used as an adjective, “further” means “more or additional.”

Further research is needed before we have the answer.

“Further” can also be used as a verb. It means “to help the progress of something.”

An example is the following sentence:

Learning English may further your career.

How can you remember the difference between “further” and "farther?" Some grammar experts say it helps to think of the word far in “farther”, showing you are talking about distance.

We hope our Ask a Teacher program helps you further your understanding of American English!

I’m Jill Robbins.

Anne Ball wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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Words in This Story

adjective - a part of speech that describes or changes the meaning of a person, place or thing

adverb – a word or term that helps to describe a verb, an adjective or another adverb

grammar – n. the whole system and structure of a language

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