further or farther

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further or farther

Post by Shelley » Wed Mar 08, 2006 12:00 am

I'm often confused about whether to use further or farther. I don't think they are interchangable. The differentiation was on a test I took once, and I'm sure I got it wrong! I can go no farther, or further. We shall discuss this further, or farther on down the road.
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further or farther

Post by Phil White » Wed Mar 08, 2006 2:22 pm

I offer without comment the take adopted by the Bloomsbury Good Word Guide:

In the sense of 'more (or most) distant or advanced', as the comparative and superlative of far, farther is interchangeable with further and farthest with furthest:
- London is farther/further from Manchester than it is from Bristol.
- Which of these three can run the farthest/furthest?

Some users restrict farther and farthest to physical distance, using further and furthest for the more figurative senses: The farthest country. Further from the truth.
In the sense of 'additional', further is more acceptable than farther: further supplies, further questions.
Further is also preferred in certain set phrases, such as: further education, until further notice, further to your letter of...
Farther is not interchangeable with further when the latter is a verb, meaning 'advance' or 'promote': to further one's career.

Bloomsbury Good Word Guide, 2nd Edition, 1990, Bloomsbury Publishing
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further or farther

Post by Shelley » Wed Mar 08, 2006 6:06 pm

Thank you, Phil White. Guess I'm not so confused after all (at least, about this)! The examples in your answer are all clear to me. In the "more (or most) distant or advanced" sense the words can be used interchangably, according to Bloomsbury, and that was the use which was giving me trouble.
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further or farther

Post by Phil White » Wed Mar 08, 2006 7:48 pm

Even the first edition of the occasionally frightfully pedantic Fowler (Modern English Usage) suggests that there is little useful distinction to be made. He also (in my opinion rightly) questions the OED's "The form farther is now preferred as the comparative of far while further is used where the notion of far is absent."

It has to be said, however, that the sources quoted thus far are all British. A US take would be nice.
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further or farther

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Thu Mar 16, 2006 12:02 am

"Anything further, Father?", a classic Marxism, is non-negotiable.
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further or farther

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Mar 16, 2006 7:30 am

Phil and Shelley, The U.S. version of Bloomsbury is probably Garner’s Modern American Usage (2003). But personally, I never had the difference straight. The following are excerpts from Garner:

FARTHER; FURTHER: Both are comparative degrees of far, but have undergone differentiation. In the best usage farther refers to physical distances, further to figurative distances—e.g.
<“After popping in to say hello to Sue’s dad, we walked FARTHER up main street to the Maritime Museum . . . “>

<“But the sheriff’s department did not investigate FURTHER . . .”>

<“Some people walk no FARTHER than the synagogue on the Sabbath . . .>

<“But the employees at One Maritime Midland Center take the spirit of giving a step FURTHER. . .>
The superlatives—farthest and furthest follow the same patterns. Furthermost is a fairly rare equivalent of farthest (not furthest)—e.g.
<“The National Park Service administers the monument located about 65 miles northwest of Gillette, in Wyoming’s FARTHEST [better than FURTHERMOST] corner of Crook County. . .”>

<“That was the FURTHEST [not FURTHERMOST] thing from the company's mind . . .”>
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Ken – March 15, 2006
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further or farther

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Mar 16, 2006 7:44 am

Donors to overseas sperm banks have by farthermost children.
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further or farther

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Mar 16, 2006 9:12 am

Which brings to mind the little known fact that one of Isaac Newton’s great quotes actually had less to do with physics than the nearsightedness and short stature of this modest man. He had originally said, “If I have seen mother it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” He later thought better of it, however, and switched to, “If I have seen father it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Later, his editor, completely misinterpreting his client’s thrust, in a well-intentioned but misguided effort to get the English straight, consulted his 1675 edition of Bloomsbury, . . . And thus the real story behind that piece of swollen-headed drivel we are left with today!
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further or farther

Post by tony h » Wed Mar 22, 2006 4:44 pm

Dear Ken,

The Isaac Newton phrase is so misunderstood. Robert Hooke was keeper of experiments (or some such title) at the Royal Society and, able though he undoubtly was, he did take to trying to take some of the credit for Newton's work. Hoyle was a shortish, round-shouldered person (clearly no giant) and Newton's "standing on the shoulders of giants" meant "and don't let **** Hooke tell you he had any part in it".
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I'm puzzled therefore I think.

further or farther

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Thu Mar 23, 2006 10:54 am

So Hooke created tension by stretching the truth beyond the critical point and getting things out of proportion.
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further or farther

Post by tony h » Thu Mar 23, 2006 1:27 pm

Yes Newton thought that Hooke went far further than he oughta but no suggestion that he had a fur farther.
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further or farther

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Sat Mar 25, 2006 10:42 pm

Line and Sinker rarely receive credit for their contributions.
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further or farther

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Mar 25, 2006 10:45 pm

Nor must we forget Sinkline and Hooker.
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further or farther

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Mar 25, 2006 11:28 pm

Yes. Those guys did take a lot of gaff.
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further or farther

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Mar 29, 2006 1:54 am

Tony, It just came to me in a flash. My whole life and only now do I realize my problem – I’ve been standing on the shoulders of midgets! And to think what might have been. (>:)
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Ken G – March 28, 2006
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