MiR 049 Shorts – Farther or Further and Fewer or Less

Welcome to the Mark in Russia podcast network, episode #49, and I’m your host, Mark. This episode is part of my series of “Shorts” and by this I mean approximately 5 minute long podcasts which are aimed at explaining a Quick Grammar Tip.

You should go to the website, http:www.markinrussia.com and look at the show notes and vocabulary. You’ll get more out of the lesson if you are able to follow it in writing.

Today’s grammar tip is actually a “two for the price of one” deal. We’ll discuss Farther vs. Further and then “Fewer or Less”?

Let’s start with farther vs. further.

This one is actually quite easy and also easy to remember.

The word “Farther” is used when we are speaking about physical distance, distance which can be measured. For example, “Ivan can throw the ball farther than Sergey”, here we can physically measure the difference in distance between the ball Ivan threw and the one that Sergey threw.

The word “Further” is used to describe metaphorical or hypothetical distance, in other words, something not easily measured. For example, “Let’s get together later today and discuss this topic further”. We can’t really measure this and this is why we use further.

OK, how can you remember which to use? Just remember that the word “farther” starts with the word “far” which is related to physical distance. This is a way of remembering which one to use.

Farther and Further represent another commonly mistaken pair of words. There are some situations where the distinction is not clear, for example: John is farther/further along in the book than Sam is.”

In this situation, things are not so clear. On one hand further along sounds OK because it can represent some hypothetical distance, although it is also possible to count the pages that John is ahead by and count this as physical distance. In a situation such as the last example, either variation will be fine. Typically though, if you are not clear which one to use, I would recommend “further”, since there are fewer restrictions on its use.

Hey, let’s take a joke break.

A man, his wife and his mother-in-law went on vacation to the Holy Land. While they were there, the mother-in-law passed away.

The undertaker told them, ‘You can have her shipped home for $5,000, or you can bury her here in the Holy Land for $150.’

The man thought about it and told him he would just have her shipped home.

The undertaker asked, ‘Why would you spend $5,000 to ship your mother-in-law home, when it would be wonderful to have her buried here and spend only $150?’

The man replied, ‘a man died here 2,000 years ago, was buried here, and three days later he rose from the dead. I just can’t take that chance.’

Alright, welcome back to the second part of today’s double feature. Our second half of the episode deals with “Less” or Fewer”?
The opposite of “more” is “less”, but the opposite of more is also “fewer”. More is a nice word because you can use it in all situations, but you need to know specifically when you can use “less” and “fewer”.

Here is an example:

“I want more soup and more sandwiches”

The opposite would be:

“I want less soup and fewer sandwiches”

You can’t say, “fewer soup” or “less sandwiches”

So, what is the rule in these situations?

“Fewer” is used with things that you can count, like “sandwiches”.

“Less” is used with things that you can’t count, but have to measure, such as soup.

A very visible example of the incorrect usage of these words can be found in every American supermarket. At the cash registers there are express registers. Above these registers are signs which read, “Express Lane, 10 items or less”. This is the wrong usage of “Less”. The signs should say, “Express Lane, 10 items or fewer”. When you can count items, then “fewer” should be used. I’ve posted some photos in the show notes on www.markinrussia.com which show this very common error. Sounds to me like one company makes these signs and they don’t have anyone working there with grammar skills.

Well, thanks again for listening through to the end of this episode, and a double at that! Come back again next week and listen to my next Quick Grammar Tip.

Please let me know if you like the idea of me including a joke during each episode in order to break things up a bit. It’s really important for me to get feedback from my listeners. You can do this on my website www.markinrussia.com or also feel free to email me at mark@markinrussia.com

Thanks again and Goodbye!

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