Toward or Towards?

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
Should I write toward or towards?

The prepositions toward and towards are interchangeable. (There is a tendency to use toward in the US and Canada, and a slight preference for towards in the UK and Australia.)

Toward or Towards?

The prepositions toward and towards are interchangeable.

Toward in the US and Canada. Towards in the UK and Australia

There is a tendency to use toward in the US and Canada, and a slight preference for towards in the UK and Australia.

Also of note, the use of towards is far more common than toward in literature (evidence), but toward has been gaining ground on towards since the 1990s.

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.)

  • 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