Grammar Check: Farther or Further?

Dec 21, 2018 | Posted by Jennifer


“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now...Come further up, come further in!” C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

This quote, which appears near the end of the final installment of the Chronicles of Narnia, reveals a beautiful and poignant moment in the narrative. The Pevensie children, with Susan notably absent, arrive suddenly and deliciously on the edge of a beautiful new land, Aslan’s Country. At Aslan’s invitation, the children begin to enter it, slowly at first but eventually running and not tiring, “further up and further in.”

I remember the first time I read those words. Lewis’ repeated use of the word further intrigued me. Musing on the sentence, I wondered. Why did Lewis choose that word over “farther”?

Far be it from me to question the great British writer and theologian on his choice of words. Rather than wonder, I went on my own quest—a quest to define and understand why Lewis selected the word “further.”

Further and farther are words that cause confusion for many people. I hope that this blog post will help you to simplify the distinction between the two words and how they are used. While it is true that both words have been used interchangeably (moreso in the United Kingdom), the practice is non-standard. Both words operate as adverbs, but interestingly further can also function as a verb. Here’s an example of that: I furthered my understanding of the differences between the words further and farther. Easy enough, right? But people’s confusion between the two typically occurs when they are selecting the adverb form to modify a verb.

In my search for clarity, I found a trick that has helped me to keep the words straight. Let’s start with the word farther. In standard American English, this word refers to physical distances. Think “far” when you use the word farther. I will walk farther tomorrow than I walk today because tomorrow I will be heading to the mall to finish up my Christmas shopping. My feet will travel all over while I search for the perfect gifts for my loved ones. Today I will be sitting and writing for much of the day, which will not allow me to walk very far at all.

In contrast to farther, which refers to physical distances, the word further emphasizes a metaphorical distance. In other words, the distance is conceptual. After reading up about the distinctions between the two words, I had come further in my understanding. Hopefully this post has helped you feel more confident in the differences between the two words as well.

But it is interesting to think a bit more about the author. Since Lewis was British, is it possible that he selected the word further to reflect both a metaphorical and physical distance? In other words, is Aslan not only commanding the children to journey closer to him in their hearts, is he also desiring them to make a physical journey into his kingdom? I think it is likely. This may underscore the importance of knowing a little bit about the author and his place of birth to gain more insight into his writing. Analyzing Lewis’ use of the word “further” in this passage sounds like an excellent prompt for a literary analysis essay. Anyone up for the challenge?


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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