There are lots of examples in the English language of two words being used interchangeably when they really shouldn’t be. Sometimes the differences are subtle, but they’re differences nonetheless.
One of my favorite examples involves the words further and farther. While they’re incredibly similar (they have six letters in common, they’re both adjectives, they’re comparative terms, and both are used to convey distance), they’re distinctly different. And they’re used improperly as often as they are correctly.
Farther means a measurable, physical distance (“How much farther to the hotel?”), while further refers to a distance that can’t really be measured (“The committee will not be discussing this issue any further.”). It means to a greater degree or a greater extent rather than a greater distance.
While it may not be policed with much vigor, making the distinction between further and farther is a smart, subtle way to stay on the right side of the English language law.
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