• 2-minute read
  • 8th September 2015

Word Choice: Farther vs. Further

Many people find the words ‘farther’ and ‘further’ confusing and use them interchangeably. This won’t cause many problems in day-to-day life, but in academic writing you need to ensure clarity and precision at all times.

Part of the problem here is that US English differs from Australian English regarding how ‘farther’ and ‘further’ should be used. It’s thus important to know the differences so as to avoid unnecessary mistakes.

Farther or Further in Australian English?

‘Further’ and ‘farther’ are both comparative forms of ‘far’. Both can be used as either an adjective or an adverb. But which is correct?

The good news is that there’s a simple answer in Australian English: use ‘further’ all the time. It is a much more common word and applies in all the contexts that ‘farther’ would, so it is definitely the safer option!

Common uses of ‘further’ include:

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  • Referring to distance (e.g. Grace threw the javelin much further than Will)
  • To mean ‘moreover’ or ‘furthermore’ (e.g. Further to my previous comments…)
  • Saying that more of something is required (e.g. It needs further thought…)
  • As a verb meaning ‘advance’ (e.g. To further the cause of science…)

In all cases, though, ‘further’ is the standard spelling in Australian English.

The Distinction in American English

While the general meaning of ‘further’ and ‘farther’ is the same in American English, there is a stronger distinction between the two forms:

  • ‘Farther’ refers specifically to measurable spatial differences.
  • ‘Further’ refers to figurative or non-physical things (such as in ‘further thought’) as well as physical distances.

As such, ‘further’ is still the safer option as it is more flexible that ‘farther’. However, you may still want to use ‘farther’ for physical distances if you’re writing primarily for a North American audience.

If you are writing for a US audience, though, don’t forget that Proofed’s expert proofreaders can help you sort your ‘honours’ from your ‘honors’ as well as checking for typos. Try sending in a 500-word sample for free today.

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