Monthly Archives: May 2013

Is it farther, or further?

This week, we consider two similar words—farther and further.  So … which of the following two sentences is correct?

  • The monastery is five miles farther down the road.
  • The monastery is five miles further down the road.

If you understand the difference between farther and further, then you know that the first sentence is correct.  Generally, both farther and further are adverbs (which, as you know, modify verbs).  But “farther” is used to describe physical distances in space or time, e.g.,

  • In 1946, Ted Williams hit a baseball farther than any ball ever hit at Fenway Park.
  • With each new baseball season, that achievement slips farther into history.

“Further,” however, is used to describe a figurative distance, e.g.,

  • The U.S. Supreme Court further examined the limits of personal jurisdiction in the Nicastro case.

Not sure if you are describing a physical distance or a figurative distance?  Don’t fret; it’s perfectly fine to use either word interchangeably when it could be describing either a physical or figurative distance, e.g.,

  • I’m further/farther along my journey to enlightenment than you are.

That is all for now …

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When should we use “while” and “although”?

This week we discuss the conjunctions “although” and “while.”  Usually, “although” is used to show a contrast, and transforms the clause into a subordinate clause (one that depends on the following clause to make a complete sentence), e.g.,

  • Although the mayor argues that the city can prohibit political speech on the sidewalk, the First Amendment says otherwise.
  • Although the fried liver was covered in tasty catsup and onions, Stephen refused to eat it.
  • Although the appellant made strong arguments, the court of appeals affirmed the trial court.

The conjunction “while” is usually used in a temporal sense, e.g., 

  • While I was in Paris, I drank my first bottle of Chateau Margaux.
  • While the cat’s away, the mice will play.

If we go back to the examples for “although” and substitute “while,” you can see that the substitution creates ambiguity:

  • While the mayor argues that the city can prohibit political speech on the sidewalk, the First Amendment says otherwise.  [Of the three examples, this is the least confusing, since the First Amendment cannot, literally, “say” anything.]
  • While the fried liver was covered in tasty catsup and onions, Stephen refused to eat it.  [In this example, Stephen seems to be refusing to eat fried liver as it is being covered in tasty catsup and onions.]
  • While the appellant made strong arguments, the court of appeals affirmed the trial court.  [Wow, how rude.  The court of appeals seems to be interrupting the appellant’s strong arguments in order to affirm the trial court.]

Bottom line, it’s best to stick to using “while” in the temporal sense, and not as a way to show contrast.  For contrast, use “although.”

That is all for now …

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