Toward or Towards? Definitions, Differences and Examples

Toward or Towards? Definitions, Differences and Examples

This post, Toward or Towards? Definitions, Differences and Examples, came as a response to a question one of the regular readers of Akademia asked me. I decided to put up this post for the benefit of our teeming readers. I hope you too find this educative.

Toward or Towards? Definitions, Differences and Examples

Before talking about the difference between toward and towards, it is important to know what the two terms mean. So we will examine meaning of toward and towards and see their correct usage.

Toward

Toward is a preposition that scholars see as a variant of towards as both convey the same meanings. So let us then see extensively, towards definition…

What is the meaning of Towards?

Towards belongs to the closed class division of the part of speech we know as preposition. (See what is a preposition?). Towards has various shades of meaning. Let us consider some of them…

First, it means ‘in the direction of, en route for, on the road to, toward,’ as you have in the following examples:

  • He walked towards his sister.
  • The fighter jet is heading towards the Middle East.
  • He was walking towards the bank.
  • The bus is headed towards Accra.
  • The excited boy ran towards his father.
  • They drove towards the border town.
  • The children hopped excitedly towards the ice cream van.

 Towards also means ‘near, close to or closer to’ as you have in these examples:

  • She was sitting towards the back.
  • The security was standing towards the exit.
  • My license will expire towards the end of the month.
  • Towards the raining season, certain ailments appear.
  • New faces dotted the landscape of the school towards the competition.

Towards

Still on towards, let us see more definitions…

This preposition also means ‘in relation to…’ This could be someone or something as you have in these examples:

  • What are your feelings towards him?
  • The man was generous towards her.
  • They were indifferent towards the situation.

Furthermore, towards means ‘getting closer to achieving a goal’. It has the sense of ‘with the aim to achieve’ or ‘in order to achieve’. For instance:

  • North Korea is working towards denuclearisation.
  • The UN is working towards ameliorating the Israel-Palestine face off.
  • Every country should be working towards a crime-free society.
  • Lagos State is working towards round-the-clock electricity.

Finally, towards means ‘for the purpose or use of, as a contribution to, to assist, to support or promote’. See the following examples:

  • She has been saving towards building a house.
  • We are saving money towards going for a holiday.
  • Many people are not planning towards retirement.
  • The organisation gave funds towards the feeding of internally displaced persons.
  • The governor provided monetary assistance towards building a community hospital.
  • Some church members offered to raise money towards hosting a successful convention.

Difference Between Toward and Towards

To answer this, I will give you some experts’ opinions. Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing for Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary believes that toward and towards are completely interchangeable and the choice of which to use is entirely up to the user.  He submitted:

As prepositions, they are followed by nouns or noun phrases. However, there is a difference in their usage. Although toward and towards are used at about the same frequency in spoken language, in written language toward is used much more often than towards, roughly five times as often. (This applies to American English only; in British English towards is the more common variation.) So if you’d like to be on the safe side, use toward and you won’t be wrong. But the choice is really up to you.

Toward or towards? 

Authorities of Encarta1 have their own perspective concerning the use of toward or towards. Hear their submission:

In U.S. English, toward is the usual form but in British English towards is more common. The same principle applies to afterward/afterwards and to some other adverbs of direction that end in -ward, for example, backward/backwards and outward/outwards. Upward, as in moved upward, and upwards, as in increases upwards of 10 percent, are also standard. Note that related adjectives of direction always end in -ward, not -wards, as in a backward glance or an upward trend. The adverb forwards is a seldom used variant of forward in U.S. English, and the -wards spelling of it is never used as a standard U.S. English adjective. 

Which is correct? Toward or Towards

Another word expert, who works for Merriam-Webster put up an article titled: Is It ‘Toward’ or ‘Towards’? where he informed that there is no basis for saying that toward is a preference of the American English, while towards is a preference of the British English as nobody has been able to provide justification for that position.

He added that most of the -ward word from the Old English era, that were formed with an adjective, adverb, or preposition such as forward, backward, inward, outward, etc. have analogous -wards mate that is almost identical in meaning.

The expert noted that the early -ward and -wards words functioned as adjectives, adverbs, and nouns, but that grammarians did not quite agree to this. He referred to Edward S. Gould‘s book titled Good English, published in 1867 where Gould claimed that the addition of -s to these words was an ‘innovation’ Do check the article for more clarifications.

Toward vs towards

Still on this matter, Grammarist, another source that provides perspectives on correct usage has this to say:

Toward and towards are equally acceptable forms of the word primarily meaning in the direction of. Other than the ‘s’ at the end, there is no difference between them. Some people differentiate the two words in various ways, but these preferences are not borne out in the usage of most English speakers. Neither form is more formal nor informal or more or less logical than the other (the Oxford English Dictionary says towards is more colloquial in British English, but we see no evidence that this is true in 21st-century British writing), so you’re safe using the one that sounds better to you. 

Use of Toward and Towards

So have I succeeded in a confusing you or giving you an answer to the correct usage of toward or towards? I needed to show you other perspectives so that we can see this issue from a broader perspective. I want to align with the opinions of the experts to let you know that whether you use toward or towards, both are correct. This same applies to words in such class like forward/forwards, backward/backwards, inward/inwards, outward/outwards, upward/upwards etc. 

Sentences with the word toward

  • The athlete beamed with smiles as he ran toward the finish line.
  • The air hostess dragged her carryon as she headed toward my plane.
  • He was disrespectful toward his boss.
  • Most philosophers lean toward Aristotle’s viewpoint.
  • All plants like to grow toward the sunlight.
  • The court accused her of inappropriate conduct toward his driver.
  • The workers are dissatisfied toward the government.
  • Doctors are working toward a breakthrough.
  • He has a lackadaisical attitude toward it all.
  • We should take the bus going toward Nairobi?
  • He wiped his moist hands on his pants and moved toward the horse.
  • The plant spiralled upward toward the roof.
  • The Pearl River keeps flowing along toward the east.
  • After the crowd dispersed, they turned toward the only shantytown.
  • It is good to be sympathetic toward the underprivileged.
  • The spy wormed his way toward the enemy’s camp.
  • His daughter’s eyes flicked over toward him.
  • The crowd moved toward the arena.
  • She walked slowly toward the surgery to see her son.
  • Toward the end of the ceremony it began to rain.
  • After their conversation, they felt drawn toward each other.
  • She walked toward the judge and slammed the table.
  • The sisters are very bitter toward each other.
  • The students crept toward the kitchen at night to get some food.
  • In all fairness she acted right toward me.

 How to Use Towards in a Sentence

Use towards or toward depending on your choice. See some more examples of towards as used in sentences:

  • Jenny’s has a serious attitude towards her job.
  • Plants will always turn towards the sun.
  • We should go on vacation towards the end of the year.
  • It might be unnecessary she said, nodding towards the windows.
  • As she made her way towards the street, the rain began to fall.
  • There is a need to take a step further towards solving the problem.
  • There are empty crates towards the back of the store.
  • She devoted all her energy towards the project.
  • They looked towards God for help in their dire need.
  • The boy darted towards the house out of fear.

Summary

From the discussions on towards and towards, it is clear that you can make use of either depending on your choice. Toward is a variant of towards. See some other related posts to learn one or two things concerning correct usage of words that share certain similarities like further and farther, several and severally, elder and older, ok and okay, efficiency and effectiveness, surpass or supersede, ingenious or ingenuous, affect or effect, belief or believe, stationary and stationery, academia and academic, rout vs route and many others.

 

1 – Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

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