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Toward or Towards?

What Is the Difference between "Toward" and "Towards"?

homesitemapA-Z confused words toward or towards?
"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

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) correct tick (small British flag)
  • (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) correct tick (small American flag)
  • (There is a tendency for "toward" in the US and Canada.)

What Is 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.)

Be Consistent!

Remember that "toward" and "towards" are interchangeable, regardless of where you live. You are safe to use whichever one you think sounds better. The only rule is be consistent. In other words, if you opt for "toward," then stick with it throughout your document.

A Video Summary

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

Are you a visual learner? Do you prefer video to text? Here is a list of all our grammar videos.

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.

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