1. Elvis

    Elvis New Member

    Apr 27, 2010
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    Further vs farther and "if I was/were you..."

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Elvis, May 13, 2010.

    I have two quick questions. They're relatively simple, and I'm not even sure if they deserve their own thread, but I haven't been able to get a decent answer on these.

    The first one is further vs farther. Are they interchangeable? And if not, when should each one be used?

    The second one is even simpler. If someone says, "If I _____ you..." what goes in the blank, "was" or "were"? You can also flip it to put that clause at the end of the sentence. Is it "I wouldn't do that if I was you" or "I wouldn't do that if I were you"?

    To me, "were" sounds better, but then again, you usually use "was" when using "I." For example, you wouldn't say "I were going for a walk." You would say "I was going for a walk."

    Thanks in advance for the help.
  2. Afterburner

    Afterburner Active Member

    Jul 4, 2008
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    North Carolina
    I'm fairly certain you use "were," except of course in situations like the one where you said "I was."

    As for further/farther, in my opinion, yes, they are interchangeable. That's just my opinion though, I honestly don't know. I'm actually kind of curious to see the correct answer to this now. Haha.
  3. madhoca

    madhoca Contributor Contributor

    Dec 1, 2008
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    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    The grammar rule is that it must be 'were' after a hypothetical 'if' clause, including after he, as in 'if he were here...' or 'if I were you' or 'If I were a rich man', but it is such common use now to put 'was' that it is not exactly a mistake in usage. It's more a question of how formal you want your writing to be. In an academic essay, for example, you should follow the grammar rule.

    Also, since many people say 'was', there's no point in changing dialogue to suit the 'were after if' rule, unless the speaker is someone who uses, or is being forced to use, very precise grammar, e.g. a barrister.

    Otherwise, for normal past tenses it is always 'was' after 'I' e.g. 'I was at home' or with past continuous, e.g. 'I was working in a bank'. But in certain dialects, 'were' is common, e.g. in the Westcountry they often say things like 'When I were a young boy' or 'Sally were a lovely little maid'. So, again, you might see 'were' in dialogue.

    Both further and farther are correct in British and Commonwealth English, but stick to one version throughout one piece of work. I don't know how things have developed in the US on this in recent years.
  4. Manav

    Manav New Member

    Mar 26, 2010
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    Imphal, India
    Further and farther are both used when we are talking about distance:

    We have to walk a little further/farther than before.

    Preferably 'further' when we are talking about extent of something:

    How much further do we have to discuss this?

    I agree.
  5. marina

    marina Contributor Contributor

    Sep 7, 2008
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  6. Humour Whiffet

    Humour Whiffet Banned

    Sep 20, 2009
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    United Kingdom
    As has been pointed out above, the distinction between further and farther doesn’t seem to be observed in the U.K. If a distinction is made, it is that farther is used to refer to distance. (You’ll note mammamaia observes the distinction.) The key is consistency.

    Swan’s Practical English Usage (Oxford) makes no distinction.

    Fowler’s Modern English Usage does, but I don’t see the distinction observed much in the U.K. For example, Ian McEwan (or perhaps his U.K. editor) uses further to refer to distance rather than farther.

    On the other hand, when McEwan writes in The New Yorker, farther is used to refer to distance.

    Were v. Was—well that can be a real can of worms. The Daily Writing Tips website has a very good post on the distinction. Try a Google search.

    One distinction that is important to observe is between farther and farter. Otherwise you’ll find all your friends moving farther away.
  7. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    to save time and confusion, you can google for 'x vs y' to get chapter and verse on what's right, wrong, or optional about word choices, from various authoritative sources...

    such as (google was vs were):

    and (google further vs farther):

    note: though wikipedia often comes up at the top of the google hits, don't rely only on that, since the info there comes from anyone who wants to submit same, thus should never be considered a reliable source on its own... if you do consult wiki, always check out the info given with authoritative sources...

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