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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