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After I found this website, I have a chance to ask questions I used to hesitate to use in a sentence as I am not a native English speaker even though I am really interested in learning English.

Anyways,

Can these sentences be legit and give the same meaning?

  1. I feel something towards her.
  2. I feel something against her.

Do they have same meaning and also where can we not use against and towards interchangeably if we can use them interchangeably sometimes.

Edit:

Okay, it seems while feelings are coming to play they cause different meaning but where can I not use them interchangeably when there is no feelings involved?

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Against and towards can be used interchangeably in some circumstances, but I don't think this is one of them. In this case, towards would imply affection and against would imply distate or dislike.

An example of a situation where they could be used interchangeably would be "Please apply the overpayment against/towards my existing credit card balance."

As for a rule, I'm not sure there is one. Maybe if emotions are involved, don't use them interchangeably but if there are no feelings involved, then it is ok to do so

  • So you say I can use them interchangeably if there is no feelings involved. Is there any case where I cannot use them interchangeably where there is no feelings around like the one you gave as an example above. – Tarik Sep 1 '11 at 15:36
  • I don't think it's a matter of "one usage for emotions, another for everything else". It's just that credit balances are inherently "vague", in that they're usually already negative relative to your total wealth, which confuses the issue as to exactly what is being increased/decreased whenever adjustments are made. The same might apply in other contexts where it's inherently unclear what if any "direction" things might move in, and/or what if any opinion a speaker might have about the desirability of any such move. – FumbleFingers Sep 1 '11 at 15:42
  • 3
    I would say using them interchangeably would be the exception, not the rule. Some examples "Let's push towards getting this done tonight" would mean we all work at getting it done tonight, but "Let's push against doing this tonight" would mean the opposite. "Lean against me" would imply physically touching you and relying on you for partial support, where as "Lean towards me" would mean come close to me, but not involve physical contact. – Kevin Sep 1 '11 at 15:46
  • @Kevin: Exception, yes. But credit balances aren't the only case. For example, Rebel forces may move against/towards Sirte at the weekend means the same with either word. But they are unusual contexts. Certainly I'd advise OP not to even consider them as interchangeable at all - they so rarely are that it's not worth bothering to take this on board while trying to learn the language. – FumbleFingers Sep 1 '11 at 16:43
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Absolutely you can use both of these sentences to mean the same thing -- if the thing you feel towards that person is antipathy, hate, or some other ugly, negative feeling.

"I feel intense hatred towards her"

"I feel an intense hatred against her."

In this case -- where both sentences are expressing something negative -- the meaning can be the same. "Towards" means "in the direction of", "against" means "in opposition towards". Both express direction, one neutrally and the other pejoratively.

However, the same does not hold for positive, good feelings. One cannot say, for instance, "I feel an intense love against her." This is because "against" is a preposition that describes opposition, and often direct opposition with physical contact. So one could perhaps say "I feel a love, towards her" -- which is a little awkward, but possible -- or one could say "I feel fondness towards her", which would be a little more acceptable. But one couldn't say "I feel fondness against her", because to say that would put the meaning of "love" or "fondness" in conflict with the meaning of "against".

  • Nice trick and thanks for the answer +1 – Tarik Sep 1 '11 at 18:06
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Opposite meanings, actually. Completely opposite.

In general, according to cognitive linguistics (and probably cognitive psychology), towards is used for positive things and against is used for negative things.

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I would suggest that holding feelings or emotions against people is kind of awkward. You might hold other things against them, which could lead to certain feelings towards them. For example, one could hold another's sloppy eating habits against them, which could easily develop into an overall feeling of negativity towards that person.

In its most basic form, it describes opposition to something. The opposing element could literally be physical, such as a push backwards, or the philosophical opposition found in the form of a contrary ideology. This is in contrast to toward, which basically describes directional movement nearer to something or someone. There is no implication of good or bad contained within.

@fumble, the provided financial examples are somewhat interchangeable because they concern either applying funds against (in opposition to, negating) an amount due or applying funds toward (in the direction of) that same debt. In he first example, you're acting against the debt itself; in the second, you're acting against the account which holds the debt. Splitting hairs here.

In the example of rebel forces, I must assert that moving toward a place does not imply active conflict; they're going there, but not necessarily fighting anybody there. Moving against a city, however, certainly does imply fighting.

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