âA quandary I would love to see you address in a future column is the proper usage of âfurtherâ vs. âfartherâ, and if there are any helpful tricks for remembering which to use when.â
â Taina L., Zionsville, IN
First of all, Taina, I appreciate that at least one person is reading this column! And, just between you and me, I was an English major for one semester in college, so Iâm totally qualified to dole out grammar advice.
The easiest way to decide which word to use in your specific syntactic situation is this: use âfartherâ when youâre referring to physical distance and âfurtherâ when youâre describing figurative or metaphorical distance. Whatâs great is that âfartherâ has the word âfarâ in it, and you already know that âfarâ deals with physical distance.
Iâll share a hypothetical example: suppose Rick and Gary are flying to the moon in order to expose the moon landing as a massive, deep state government cover up. For the record, I do not subscribe to that opinion, but Rick and Gary do. Theyâve built a space vessel, successfully rocketed out of Earthâs upper atmosphere, and are now cruising weightlessly toward their lunar destination. Gary, who is chronically impatient, turns to Rick, the pilot of the ship, and asks, âRick! Are we there yet? How much farther?â Gary is referring to a physical distance, so âfartherâ is correct.
Later in their journey, Rick and Gary are passing time by discussing various conspiracy theories. As Gary rambles on about how lizard people actually built the pyramids, he remarks, âRick! Donât you get it? How much further down the rabbit hole can we go?â While on one hand, you could argue that a rabbit hole is a physical distance, in this instance the rabbit hole Gary refers to is figurative, so âfurtherâ is correct.
On the bright side, if itâs unclear which word to use because you canât determine if youâre referring to physical or figurative distance, most experts agree âfartherâ and âfurtherâ can be used interchangeably. And, when in doubt, as a general rule, use âfurtherâ because âfartherâ is more restrictive.
â Curtis Honeycutt is a freelance humor writer. Connect with him on Twitter (@curtishoneycutt) or at curtishoneycutt.com.