Toward or Towards?

by Craig Shrives

Toward or Towards?

What is the difference between "toward" and "towards"?

The prepositions "toward" and "towards" are interchangeable. However, there is a strong tendency to use "toward" in the US and Canada, and a slight preference for "towards" in the UK and Australia.

toward or towards

A Video Summary

Here is a video summarizing this lesson on "toward" and "towards."

More about "Toward" and "Towards"

In grammar, "toward" and "towards" are prepositions. They can be used interchangeably. However, there is a tendency to use "toward" in the US and Canada, and a slight preference for "towards" in the UK and Australia.

The Use of "Toward" in the US. In the 1800s, "towards" was more popular than "toward" in North America. However, since 1900, "toward" has been more popular. At present, "toward" dominates to the extent that some Americans will consider "towards" to be a spelling mistake or an anglicism. (evidence)

The Use of "Towards" in the UK. In the UK and Australia, "towards" has always been more popular than "toward." However, since the 1980s (due to American influence), "toward" has been gaining ground on "towards." (evidence)

Examples of "Toward" and "Towards"

The examples below show the preferences for "toward" and "towards" according to region:
  • The first step towards knowledge is to know that we are ignorant. (English clergyman Richard Cecil, 1748-1810) ()
  • (There is a preference for "towards" in UK and Australia.)

  • The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance. (Canadian–American psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden,1930-2014) ()
  • (There is a tendency for "toward" in the US and Canada.)

The Difference between "To" and "Towards"

The words "toward" and "towards" primarily mean "in the direction of." They contrast with "to," which implies an intent to reach the place named. For example:
  • I am heading to the shops.
  • (With "to," your reader will infer that the shops are your final destination.)
  • I am heading towards the shops.
  • (With "toward(s)," your reader will only infer that you're heading in the direction of the shops.)
Here is another example:
  • Are you going to Birmingham, John? I am heading towards Birmingham, so I can give you a lift as far as Rugby.
  • (In this example, "to Birmingham" tells us that Birmingham is John's final destination. The "towards Birmingham" does not carry the same connotation.)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are prepositions? List of easily confused words