The usage of ‘further’ and ‘farther’ is a common confusion among students. If you are one of those who use the two words interchangeably, you are not alone. Many English speakers across the world do the same. However, there is a small difference between the two. So, when should each one be used?
The simplest way to understand the difference is that ‘farther’ is used for physical distances whereas ‘further’ is used in a more figurative sense. We can understand it better with a couple of examples:
He went farther down south.
To understand this, you have to go further back in time.
However, there are certain cases where it is difficult to determine whether you are really referring to physical distances. If you are stuck in such a situation, the good news is that you can get away with using ‘further’. In fact, if you can’t decide which word to use, it is always a good idea to stick with ‘further’.
Owing to this ambiguity, is not wrong to use the words interchangeably. In fact, you will see more this distinction widely missing in popular usage. The usage of the word ‘farther’ for denoting distance is far more popular in the US than in the UK where the usage of ‘further’ is more prevalent.