See the article for context. Seems like a plausible suggestion to me, but I'm curious what others think.

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Consider the house, tree, and sunflower in the illustration at the top of this post. The sunflower is farther from the tree than the house is. But it would sound a bit odd to say that the sunflower is further than the house, given that the sunflower lies in the opposite direction. On the other hand, it would be colloquial to say that the sunflower is further from the house than the tree is, because the tree and the sunflower lie in the same direction.


A mathematician might say that further is referring to the increase of a vector, and farther to the increase of a distance. To say it in English rather than in math: farther refers to a greater distance, literal or metaphorical, from a shared measuring point. Further refers to a greater progress in a shared direction.


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  • I prefer the historical account, "farther (adv.) 15c. alteration of Middle English ferther (c. 1300), a variant of further (adv.). There is no historical basis for the notion that farther is of physical distance and further of degree or quality." etymonline.com/… I emphasise "there is no historical basis" Maybe some distinction accreted later but, in their origins they were the same word pronounced differently. – chasly - supports Monica Oct 23 '15 at 19:46
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    That roughly agrees with "rules" I've heard in the past. And that's as fur as I feel comfortable going on that topic. – Hot Licks Oct 23 '15 at 19:48
  • Related: Comparative or superlative use of the word “far”. The question here seems more of a prompt to discussion, which doesn't seem to me like a good fit with the Stack Exchange Q&A format. (See the Help Center for more about this.) Therefore, I'm voting to close the question. – herisson Oct 23 '15 at 20:44
  • Definitely agree. Tomorrow I will set out ('go forth') on a new quest. The following day, after a good night's sleep I will go further. How far will I go? Farther in a day than I usually travel in a week. – Dan Oct 23 '15 at 22:48
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    @Dan - Send us some postcards. – Hot Licks Oct 24 '15 at 3:26

I have never actually researched this but I have always taught my students that the difference was based on where the speaker/writer was from. I had always understood that the British tend to use 'further' whereas the Americans use 'farther' when speaking of physical distance. Both, however, use 'further' when in the context of something like 'further education'.

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