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Further and farther
PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2007 2:11 pm Reply with quote
thegooseking
 
Joined: 10 Sep 2006
Posts: 64
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland


I remember this question was addressed in the 2000 film Finding Forrester, but I can't actually remember what was said about it.

In any case, someone on another forum suggested that 'farther' should be used for physical distance, and 'further' for metaphorical distance.

Neither I nor Chambers Harrap dictionary agree on this, however, and the dictionary and I don't even agree with each other. The dictionary has this to say on the subject:-
Quote:
Use either farther or further when there is an actual physical distance involved I can't walk any farther / further. Use further when the meaning is 'additional' or 'beyond this point' I would like to make one further point.

I agree with the dictionary that both words have meaning when applied to physical distances, but not necessarily that they have the same meaning and are interchangeable.

I would tend to use 'farther' as a static comparator, e.g. "Cornwall is farther than Manchester." 'Further' would be more circumstantial, e.g. "I have travelled six miles, and the journey is eight miles. I only have two miles further to go." Actually, when I say "I would tend to use", I mean that's how I perceive the difference: I'm not entirely sure they wouldn't be the other way round, though!

The poster suggested that it may be a regional variation, but I'm not entirely convinced by that...

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 10:41 pm Reply with quote
Mister Micawber
 
Joined: 17 Nov 2007
Posts: 7
Location: Yokohama


.
M-W's Dictionary of English Usage has a lot to say on this...as does about every other reference book in existence. Some excerpts from the first-mentioned:

"About every usage commentator in the 20th century-- from Vizetelly 1906 to Trimmer & McCrimmon 1988-- has had something to say about farther and further (and sometimes farthest and furthest)...

Farther and further are historically the same word, so it is not surprising that the two have long been used more or less interchangeably... The OED (of 1897) said that farther is usually preferred as the comparative of far, that further was used when the notion of far was absent, and that there was a large intermediate class of uses in which the choice between the two was arbitrary.

Fowler 1926 disagreed. [He] believed that most people did not use both terms;...most people made do with one or the other.

As adjectives, both words could at one time be used in the sense 'additional'... But in present-day English further has taken over this function entirely. ...Farther has been relegated as an adjective to instances where either literal or figurative distance is involved... And even in this function further is presenting formidable competition.

As adverbs, farther and further are less well differentiated. Differentiation is most nearly complete in the 'degree' sense, where there is no notion of distance. We can find farther in this sense, but our examples are getting a bit old. Further is now the usual choice.

...Further is now used as a sentence adverb; farther is not... But when spatial, temporal or metaphysical distance is involved, farther is still thriving...[although] further is giving farther plenty of competition for the same uses.

Fowler would be pleased to discover that further is more commonly attested in our recent files and in the Brown University corpus.... The British evidence in our files shows further more common than farther in all senses."

The passage as a whole makes interesting reading, and is rife with examples.
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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 9:10 pm Reply with quote
tristanjay7
 
Joined: 15 Oct 2006
Posts: 28
Location: Madison, WI


This is an example of my new favorite kind of historical language change: analogy. Basically, a word changes to become more like another word or paradigm.

Originally "far" meant "farther" (it was comparative). Then "far" came to mean "far." So if you wanted to say something was "more far" people would have to use "farrer." However there was already a word "further" with a similar meaning ("more forward, before in position"), and "farrer" shift to become more like "further," yielding "farther."

This is all unrelated to the question of when to use each form. I just wanted to share my favorite thing from historical linguistics.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2008 9:30 pm Reply with quote
thegooseking
 
Joined: 10 Sep 2006
Posts: 64
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland


No, I think that does clarify the distinction a little bit.

My working definition at the moment would be that 'further' means "more distance travelled" or "less distance to the goal state" whereas 'farther' means "of these two distances, this one is greater".

This would seem consistent with your points on historical usage, the fact that historical usage is not modern usage notwithstanding.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 4:34 am Reply with quote
Eileen Ann
 
Joined: 27 Jun 2008
Posts: 42


You are right that in the UK "farther" is less used.

But I really think that "further" is better used in saying:

"Further more, I have something else to say. . . ."
Here, you could not use "Farther more..." because it doesn't work.

So, "further" is definitely related both to physical distance and an abstract addition in moving a point or showing an extra (further) slant to the argument or discussion.

Is something farther away or further away? In physical distance "farther" would most naturally be more clear and descriptive than "further" and perhaps "further" is best employed in descriptive, abstract concepts.

Might we speak further on this?
Perhaps we will go far with our ideas which we can further by moving farther into the lexicon of life.
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Further and farther
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