One of my faithful readers responded to last week’s call for grammar questions with this challenge: farther vs. further. That can be deceptively tough to answer.
After consulting the Web and two of the trustiest dictionaries I could get my hands on (OED and Webster’s Third New International Dictionary), I’m not surprised this one stumps many of us.
Popular usage rules dictate that you would use farther for measurable distances and further for anything else. Notice I say popular usage rules. You see, as with many English grammar rules, further vs. farther is more—or possibly less—complicated than I realized.
Here are some examples of the correct way to use these two words in popular usage:
Barbara ran farther than she did yesterday, while Hope did not run far at all.
Further, Barbara runs every day, while Hope takes some days off.
Barbara’s running is further aided by good genes and no injuries.
I’ll note that as I type this post, WordPress’ spell checker has flagged farther in the example above.
Keep reading for more examples—complete with pretty pictures—and a brief tour of the rabbit hole I fell into when I cracked open my parents’ OED (the version that fits into two volumes of microscopic text and comes with its own magnifying glass.) Continue reading