JS Tip 78: From the Writing Workshops: “Further” and “Farther”

We love it when one Tip prompts another.

Last week’s discussion of “fewer” and “less” prompted Curtis Thomas (formerly of IM Flash and now of law school) to ask, “When should we use ‘further’ and when should we use ‘farther’?”

“Farther” relates to distance: “The Saints pushed the Vikings farther up the field.” (We’re talking yardage here. Distance.) Think of “far” as being off in the “distance.”

“Further” relates to degree: “We can argue this further.”

Unfortunately, fewer and fewer (not less and less) people know the difference, and the difference is fading from the language. The two terms are almost interchangeable. The Oxford English Dictionary says, in most cases, it’s okay to use “further” and “farther” interchangeably, especially when the difference isn’t clear.

It’s part of the language up for debate.

There’s a nice debate in Finding Forrester:

Prof. Crawford: Perhaps your skills do reach farther than basketball.

Jamal: “Further”

Prof. Crawford: What?

Jamal: You said that my skills reached “farther” than basketball. “Farther” relates to distance, “further” is a definition of degree. You should have said “further.”

Prof. Crawford: Are you challenging me, Mr. Wallace?

Jamal: Not any more than you challenged Coleridge.

If you have questions or comments, let us know. As we’ve said before, we love this stuff.