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Which one should should I use? For some reason I have always used "towards", but I see some people saying "toward", like here:

A great deal of his work in economic theory has been directed toward strengthening the foundations of our understanding of central banking and social insurance--indeed, one of my most advanced macroeconomic classes was nothing but a set of changes rung upon a particular model that Peter Diamond had advanced at...

Is there a difference between the two? When should they be used?

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I vote to close as this has been asked many, many times before. –  The Raven Mar 16 '11 at 0:46
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@The Raven: note the date. This question was asked seven months ago. It was our 71st question, out of the 4200 we currently have. And it was the first one to deal with this particular issue. There are a few younger questions that might be considered dupes of this one, but not the other way round. –  RegDwigнt Mar 16 '11 at 2:16
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It seems also to apply to backward vs. backwards and forward vs. forwards. I would ask if beside/besides is of the same kind. –  Val Aug 16 '13 at 9:52
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3 Answers 3

up vote 18 down vote accepted

The Common Errors in English Usage site mentions:

These two words are interchangeable, but “toward” is more common in the US and “towards” in the UK.

Some people, probably influenced by “forwards,” write “torwards” instead of the correct “towards.”

The merriam-webster simply list both words under the same entry, with similar ethymology:

  • toward: Middle English toward, from Old English tōweard facing, imminent, from , preposition, to + -weard -ward
  • towards: Middle English towardes, from Old English tōweardes, preposition, toward, from tōweard, adjective
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Despite the trend that "toward" is more common in the U.S. and that "towards" is more common in the U.K., I still see quite a bit of inconsistency within the same country, within the same publications.

For example:

The New York Times with "towards":
nytimes.com/2002/08/31/opinion/slouching-towards-9-11.html
"Slouching Towards 9/11"

The New York Times with "toward":
nytimes.com/2010/02/04/world/europe/04tuna.html
"Europe Leans Toward Bluefin Trade Ban"

But for the most part, the Times seems to dominantly use "toward", and then "towards" when quoting a British interviewee, which further supports the claim about the geographical distinction.

I suppose either one is fine as long as you're consistent.

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The first NYTimes example is in effect a literary quotation. It is an echo of W.B. Yeats' "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" (echoed later by Joan Didion's book of the same title). –  jbelacqua Mar 15 '11 at 23:45
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I'd say they are interchangeable. I've stopped using "towards" altogether and started just using "toward." It definitely is smoother in sentences.

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