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Is "as far as" the same as "to" in these sentences?

I read as far as the third chapter.

I read to the third chapter.

and

I'm going by train as far as London.

I'm going by train to London.

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In your second pair of examples, the first alternative at least suggests that there is more to follow (perhaps 'and then by plane to Paris'). The second variant could more easily stand alone. In the first pair, the 'as far as' preposition indicates there is again possibly more to the story - 'and tomorrow I'll read the rest' or a prior question 'Have you read any of the book we were given for homework?' The nuances are subtle, though. –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 29 '13 at 19:42
    
Think of this as if you were picking up a hitchhiker. I'll take you to London" could mean you're in for a long ride but "I'll take you as far as London" means you could give the hitchhiker the boot at anytime but definitely in London. –  Brad Jan 30 '13 at 16:25

2 Answers 2

In both your cases, to and as far as mean approximately the same thing. The difference is open-endedness of the phrase. to is very definite. as far as can suggest that some other action might follow. For example:

I'm going by train as far as London. Then I will take a plane to Ankara.

I'm going by train to London. It is much faster than by bus.

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I think your first examples are basically equivalent, although I would opt for the "to" version.

The second sentences I would not necessarily understand to mean the same thing. Going by train TO London indicates to me that London is a fixed destination. Perhaps you are going elsewhere afterwards, but you will getting off the train in London. Using "as far as" I don't have a very good sense of what you will be doing. Depending on context, I would either understand that to mean that you were taking the train until you got to London and then doing something else, or (conversely) that you were going no further than London on the train (and would probably get off the train before it arrived in London).

I think the first examples are equivalent because they are in the past tense, and so 'as far as' makes sense in the 'to'/'up to'/'until' context. However, the train example is discussing something which has yet to happen so its not clear that 'as far as' will in fact be 'to'.

To me there is a slight difference between: I went as far as London before turning back. (to works because I got to London) AND I'll go as far as London before turning back. (to doesn't work because I'm not necessarily going all the way to London-- it's simply the bound/maximum distance I'm willing to go).

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