The library is far.

The library is far away.

I was told that far and far away are both fine and express the same meaning in the above sentences. But, I was told that only far away can be used in the following sentence (far is wrong).

On top of the mountain, I can see things far away.

*On top of the mountain, I can see things far.

Why? I haven't got a good explanation.

  • Away is a preposition (usually intransitive) which can be modified by the word far. Preposition phrases can post-modify nouns so we get phrases like a country far away. The word far can function as a predicative complement. It is perhaps understood as an elliptical use of far from here: The school was very far. However, the word far cannot be used to post-modify nouns, so the phrase things far is not grammatical. Jan 29 '15 at 16:36

Far away indicates something or someone that is far from something else, and implies two points, a here, and a 'there' being referred to. Far however is more general and can be used in more cases e.g. "he went far in his studies"

Your latter example is also grammatically wrong.

On top of the mountain, I can see things far away.

On top of the mountain, I can see things needs a word here far.

e.g. that are quite but there are many other sentences that would make much more sense grammatically, and meaningfully.

I'd also suggest an additional word in the first sentence too, e.g.

I can see things that are far away.

There is also a better sentence involving far:

On top of the mountain, I can see far.

  • But, oddly, "On top of the mountain I can see things near and far" wouldn't cause even a moderate P-ist to bat an eyelash.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 29 '15 at 13:12
  • I can see things near***,*** and far Jan 29 '15 at 13:39
  • I said a moderate P-ist. ;)
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 29 '15 at 16:42

Thank you, Tom J Nowell for your answer. Thank you, the other friends. I agree. The sentence "on top of the moutain, I can see things far” is grammatically wrong. But why is it wrong? My personal analysis is like this: Let's first see another two sentences: I can kick the soccer ball far. I can see the soccer ball far away. I think both of them are correct grammatically. Because both "far" and 'far away' modify the verb 'kick'. If we divide these sentences, we can do this way: I can kick the soccer ball / far. I can kick the soccer ball / far away.

Then let's see sentences with similar structure on the surface: *I can see the soccer ball far. I can see the soccer ball far away. I think the first is wrong, but the second is correct. Because "far" and 'far away' modify the "soccer ball", not the verb "see". If we divide them, it should be like this: I can see / the soccer ball far. I can see / the soccer ball far away.

I think we should say "the far soccer ball", not the 'the soccer ball far', whereas we can say "the soccer ball far away" or "the far-away soccer ball".

What do you think?



"Away" is an adverb. "... I can see things far" is awkward for a few reasons. English prefers the adjective before the noun. It's poetic and rare to have a construction like "things far." The reduced clause "... I can see things [that are] far" doesn't work because it feels like "far" should modify "see" rather than "things" (because of the noun/adjective inversion).

I couldn't think of a single prepositional phrase that has "away" as the preposition. Maybe the confusion comes from both prepositions and adverbs being acceptable particles in phrasal verbs (along with "it"). But this gets tricky, too, as phrasal verb/direct object combinations can look like verb/prepositional phrase combinations until you really pick apart what is going on.

  • Your first paragraph doesn't answer the question, and "away" isn't a preposition.
    – deadrat
    Jul 22 '15 at 23:13

I think this is to do with whether you are referring to distance or time. Egs. 'The day when we can predict earthquakes is not far.' seems to require 'away' or 'off'. But 'The nearest station is not far.' does not need anything, although many people may prefer something. It's also worth remembering that 'far' is an adjective, and so it doesn't usually come after the noun it is qualifying. Egs. 'I can see the mountains far' is strange, but 'I can see the far mountains' is fine.

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