Ray LeBlond once said “You learn something every day if you pay attention.” Today is the day to learn the difference between further and farther.
Unsurprisingly, farther means “at or to a greater distance.” However, besides physical distance, it can also refer to “a more advanced point” or “to a greater extent.” As an adjective, it describes something that is more distant or remote than some other thing that is nearer. Here are two quotes from literature:
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
“The farther you go . . . the harder it is to return. The world has many edges and it’s easy to fall off.”
—Anderson Cooper, Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival
The definition of further overlaps with farther, but first notice the meanings that are unique to this term. As a adverb, further means “in addition to.” When it describes a noun, it means “more, extended, or additional.” Further can even be a verb. It means “to aid in the progress of, to promote, or to move forward.” Consider this quote from The Life of Pi by Yann Martel:
“You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”
How do the definitions of farther and further overlap? Some usage guides disagree, but both terms have been used interchangeably to describe physical distance. In response to a question from a writer, The Chicago Manual of Style deferred to Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary, which states: “Farther and further have been used more or less interchangeably throughout most of their history, but currently they are showing signs of diverging. As adverbs they continue to be used interchangeably whenever spatial, temporal, or metaphorical distance is involved. But where there is no notion of distance, further is used.” However, further is unique in that it can mean “in addition to” or “moreover.” Notice how further is used in this quote from The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis:
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now . . . Come further up, come further in!”
Are further and farther impossible to tell apart from one another? No! Nothing could be farther from the truth! If you remember that only further can mean “moreover,” you shouldn’t have much difficulty. That’s one thing learned for today, but what will you investigate tomorrow?
from Grammarly Blog https://www.grammarly.com/blog/farther-further/