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Can these expressions be used just about interchangeably for all but the most formal prose, or is there a subtle difference to them?

E.g.

He is headed over to the garage.

He is headed for the garage.

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    They mean the same thing, but neither are particularly idiomatic. As usual, you focus on non-standard usages. Most people would say "He's heading for the garage." – FumbleFingers Mar 2 '14 at 21:56
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    @FumbleFingers I believe the preference to be regional dialect. Headed over to is used with quite a bit of frequency in the Northeastern US. Headed for is more popular, though. – David M Mar 2 '14 at 22:01
  • @DavidM That's right! This diagram shows it particularly well:books.google.com/ngrams/… – Elian Mar 2 '14 at 22:06
  • This stock phrase "As far as your English variety goes" - I would consider losing that. First off, your English variety contrasts to say . . . your German variety, or Lithuanian variety. It sounds like you're describing a sub-type of dog breed. It you want to use this construct, you would say variety of English. Or, better yet, use the term dialect here. It is the proper term for this. – David M Mar 2 '14 at 22:17
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    @FumbleFingers That is absolutely true. Heading over is more common to be certain. I missed your meaning before. I thought you were contrasting over vs. for, not heading vs. headed. But, headed is used with enough frequency in the US to register. – David M Mar 2 '14 at 22:26
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These are typically used interchangeably.

There can be an inferred subtextual difference, though.

Headed over to can impart an airy quality. It seems to suggest he'll get there when he gets there. (He might stop for a cup of coffee, along the way.) I want to make clear, that this is NOT necessarily implied by this. It is just a feeling you might get upon hearing this phrase.

Headed for implies that he is going in the direction of the garage as we speak.

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  • Well, at least I've learned something from this question. The available evidence suggests to me that headed over/for are heading for terminal decline in perhaps just a few decades, but as of now the form is alive and well in the US. It doesn't exactly sound "weird" to me, but I must admit it does sound just faintly "rustic/folksy". – FumbleFingers Mar 2 '14 at 22:28
  • @FumbleFingers Yeah, in reading it, it didn't even register as odd to me. Again, two countries separated by a common language! – David M Mar 2 '14 at 22:29
  • ...I'm not sure, but I more than suspect there's a general shift towards -ing forms over -ed forms in many such contexts, that's probably common to US and UK usage. – FumbleFingers Mar 2 '14 at 22:30
  • @FumbleFingers I guess it represents our desire to live in the moment. To me, the difference would be: I'm heading over there (right now). I'm headed over there (after I finish eating). But, this distinction doesn't hold up for me when using headed for or heading for. Those mean right now unless specifically modified. – David M Mar 2 '14 at 22:38
  • I wouldn't normally bother to make that fine distinction anyway, since context would usually cover it perfectly well. If I say "I'm heading over the pub" while I'm still at home eating my dinner, I'd be somewhat scathing of anyone pointing out that I wasn't in fact heading anywhere at that precise moment. Just as I don't really bother to distinguish "I'm [doing...]" from "I'll be [doing...]" in many contexts. Nor would I care to be told I'm going to the pub, rather than over=above it. – FumbleFingers Mar 2 '14 at 22:44

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