I recently hesitated when I wrote the phrase “look no further,” referring to a search for Thanksgiving recipes. Was that correct? I thought back to the old rule reminding me that farther meant physical distance and further, well it’s different, but I couldn’t remember exactly why.
Jump to Grammarly, which explains it in detail, yet I’m still a little confused. Here is what seems clear to me about further and farther:
Farther connotes distance, but it can also refer to a more advanced point.
Both further and farther are adverbs, but further can also be a verb, as in, “She furthered her career” as well as an adjective, such as, “pursuing further information.” Still okay, but now things get murky:
Grammarly poses the question, “How do the definitions of farther and further overlap? Can you use further or farther away in the same way?” The answer:
“Some usage guides disagree, but both terms have been used interchangeably to describe physical distance.”
The following examples of confused me even more:
“The further from one another, the nearer one can be.”—August Strindberg, The Road to Damascus
“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!” —C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle
I felt a little better after I read further (haha, get it?).
The Chicago Manual of Style defers to Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary, which says:
“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.”
Their final tip is to remember that only further means moreover.
I’m probably going to do what I usually do when I’m unsure of correct usage, which is to rewrite the sentence so I don’t have to deal with it!
Do you have the further/farther rule down? What’s your secret?
By the way, when I ran the Spelling & Grammar check on this post, Microsoft Word gave me a 90%. That’s one of their new, annoying features.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Jackson Browne songs, Farther On.
Thanks for visiting—come back soon!