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” Toward Vs Towards ” – When To Use This Two Words?

by Barsha Bhattacharya
toward vs towards

The toward vs towards debate has been going on for several years now. The English language is strange, and it is commonly known that there are plenty of words with more than one correct spelling. Verbs like ‘spelt’ and ‘spell,’ nouns like ‘color’ and colour,’ ‘favor’ and ‘favour’ are a few such examples.

The towards vs toward argument is another example of English words with more than one correct spelling. Also, the difference between the two words happens to be geographical more than literal. However, it is best to know in detail the differences between the two words to know when to use them without any confusion. 

If you are worried about making simple errors over the internet’s inability to fix the toward vs towards issue, you have come to the right place. Keep reading and learn all you need to know about using ‘toward’ and ‘towards’ in your everyday conversations. 

Toward Vs Towards: A Discussion

1. Origins

Do you prefer going ‘towards’ your destination? Or do you like going ‘toward’ your description? Surprisingly, you can do both! However, people favor using the words depending on their location, but it makes more sense to discuss the origins of the two words in detail first.

American English uses ‘toward’ leaving out the ‘s’ while British English does not leave out the ‘s.’ This rule works for all words related to the direction – forward, backward, upward, downward. However, people end up using the two words in place of each other only due to their versatile interchangeability. 

Interestingly, both the words were introduced into literature and then inevitably everyday tongue, around the same time. Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was written between 1387 and 1400 when the spoken and written language was not standardized. Despite being a magnanimous part of British literature, Chaucer used ‘toward’ and not ‘towards.’

Grammar fanatics have been obsessed with the toward vs towards argument for many years now. While Americans boasted the supremacy of ‘toward,’ the British were no less and kept their love for ‘towards’ constant. However, there is no rule to choose one word over the other, especially spelling.

2. Meaning

The word ‘toward’ is related to movement and direction. Consequently, the term is used literally for explaining which direction you are moving, and symbolically, ‘toward’ highlights ‘in relation to.’ However, ‘toward’ is used as an adjective rarely for highlighting anything in progress or going on. 

While the two words can be used in place of each other as prepositions due to their interchangeability, unfortunately, you cannot use ‘towards’ in place of ‘toward’ if you were using it as an adjective. In the case of an adjective, you need to leave the ‘s’ out like the British writers.

It is interesting to note that you can use towards or toward in respect to both time or location as prepositions in a sentence. Thus, both ‘toward’ and ‘towards’ have the exact definition and purpose. For instance, ‘Rohit moved towards his expansion plans quickly’ or ‘Rohit moved towards his expansion plans quickly.’

3. The Difference

When used as a preposition, you can use toward or towards since the toward vs towards disagreement does not even hold in this case. The two words have a similar spelling and meaning. When you think about it, the only difference is all because of that one isolated ‘s.’

Conventionally, while ‘toward’ is preferred in the United States and Canada, other English-speaking countries like the United Kingdom and Australia use ‘towards.’ While this minor regional difference comes up in the Chicago Manual of Style, The AP Stylebook advises readers to opt for the word with the relatively short spelling.

Additionally, towards or toward can both be traced back to the old English language, most of which has become archaic today. ‘Toward’ came from ‘toweard,’ which was used if you would move in the direction of something. ‘Towards’ naturally evolved from ‘toweards,’ an old English adverb. 

Toward vs Towards: When And How To Use These Words?

Now that you have understood the meaning and function of towards or toward, figuring out when to use the two words will not be a complex task, especially now that you can differentiate between both the words. Instead of picking sides in the toward vs towards debate, use both as and when required. 

When you are trying to express a direction or a purpose in a sentence, you can accurately use toward or towards as prepositions. However, it is vital to remember that you need an object to use with the two words while doing so. Additionally, you can only use ‘toward’ as an adjective.

A few examples mentioned below will help you better understand the toward vs towards segment. 

  1. I am shifting to my new apartment towards the end of the month – ‘towards’ here refers to the purpose.
  2. The car is heading towards the garage on the other side of town – ‘towards’ refers to direction.
  3. Pam’s feelings toward her husband lessened with each passing day, making her more distant – ‘toward’ here refers to relation.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should I Use Toward Or Towards?

The debate of toward vs towards has gone on way too long now. However, both the words have the same meaning, that is, ‘in the direction of.’ Thus, the difference between the two is not based on their meanings but instead regional – while the USA prefers using ‘towards,’ UK uses ‘towards.’

2. How Do You Use The Word Toward?

‘Toward’ is often used when people talk about moving in some direction like ‘we decided to move toward our end goal by December,’ or more literally, ‘the storm is now moving towards the shore.’ Thus, it becomes clear how the word can move in a direction or move in relation to something.

3. Is Towards Formal?

Although many people debate how ‘towards’ is a more word than ‘toward,’ there is no logic behind this deduction. Both the terms have a similar meaning, and it is clear how they are different alternatives to the same word.

4. What Is The Difference Between Toward And To?

‘To’ is a preposition commonly used for specifying place. The word ‘to’ is most often used with a movement or direction verb and naturally showcases the outcome of the movement. In fact, ‘toward’ is a preposition with a similar meaning. However, while the word ‘toward’ highlights the direction, it does not stress the outcome.

5. Is Toward Singular Or Plural?

While using toward or towards as prepositions, know that they have similar meanings and can be used synonymously. The only different quality between the two words is the region where they are being used. For example, while the United States and Canada prefer ‘toward,’ the United Kingdom and Australia use ‘towards.’

Conclusion

The toward vs towards debate is not at all realistic. You can use either of the two words as a preposition in a sentence. Suppose you are a professional writer or use the English language regularly. In that case, it is best to use any version of the word depending on your audience’s or reader’s location.

For instance, if you are a professional content writer catering to an American audience, you will have to use standardized words of American English – ‘color’ instead of ‘colour’ and ‘toward’ instead of ‘towards’ are just two examples. Similarly, while catering to a British audience, it is best to stick to British English.

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