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I am not sure whether forward or forwards is to be used in this sentence.

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2 Answers 2

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Forward and forwards are the same in your sentence. Forward is, basically, an adjective or "flat" adverb, and forwards is, in the same way, an adverb.

The reason is in the Wikipedia article "Adverbial genitive" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_possessive

Another remnant of the Old English genitive is the adverbial genitive, where the ending s (without apostrophe) forms adverbs of time: nowadays *[= now, of a day], closed Sundays [= of a Sunday]. There is a literary periphrastic form using of, as in of a summer day. There are also forms in -ce, from genitives of number and place: once, twice, thrice; whence, hence, thence.

(There is also the "genitive of measure": forms such as "a five-mile journey" and "a ten-foot pole" use what is actually a remnant of the Old English genitive plural which, ending in /a/, had neither the final /s/ nor underwent the foot/feet vowel mutation of the nominative plural. In essence, the underlying forms are "a five of miles (O.E. gen. pl. mīla) journey" and "a ten of feet (O.E. gen. pl. fōta) pole".)

In the first paragraph, you will see that “closed Sunday”, “closed on a Sunday”, “closed of a Sunday” and “closed Sundays” Are, given context, semantically identical.

Thus we have the ‘s’ as a vestigial option.

In order to show that the same happens with “forward” is rather complex:

OED

Forward adj., adv., and n.

(NB, no ‘s’.)

Etymology: Old English for(e)weard , adjective and adverb; see fore adv. and -ward suffix. The adjective seems to have become obsolete after the Old English period, and to have been redeveloped from the adverb in the 16th cent. The adverb (Old English foreweard) was apparently in origin the neuter accusative of the adjective.

Of the suffix "-ward" the OED notes (in an extremely long and complex set of notes)

"Old English -weard, primarily forming adjectives, with the sense ‘having a specified direction’, "

We should now take (i) toward, backward, foreward/forward, etc as prepositional modifiers - to+ward, back+ward, fore+ward/forward and (ii) "ward" has having a substantive function equal to "direction"

For "forward" (noun), the OED gives

C. n. [The adj. used absolutely.]

†1. The fore or front part, the first part. on forward: in the beginning (see aforeward adv. and prep.). Obsolete.

OE Old Eng. Hexateuch: Deut. (Claud.) xxviii. 13 Drihten ðe geset symle on foreweard [L. in caput] & na on æfteweard.

c1175 Lamb. Hom. 73 On forward þos cristendomes ech man leorned his bileue er he fulht underfenge.

The loss, in Middle English, and the recovery of “forward” in the 16th century (See Etymology above) now changes the meaning of the word from (i) being at the start to (ii) being at the front

  1. Nautical. (See quot. 1892.) 1892 Labour Comm. Gloss. Foreward..the fore end of a barge or other craft.
  1. Football. One who plays in the front line; one of the body of players termed ‘forwards’, as opposed to ‘backs’ (see back n.1 21), whose duty is to be foremost in the attack.

From all this, we can see that for(e)ward was an adverb (and adjective) by way of being an prepositional modifier. But that the adverbial genitive ‘s’ was often thrown in for good measure.

Push it forward(adv.)

Push it forwards = Push it {of a fore direction.} -> Push it {of a direction that is to the front} adverbial.

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For me there is a distinction between the usage of "forward" and "forwards". Note that some people won't perceive (or care about) this distinction.

Forward is a direction. Forwards is a mode of travel.

The general marched the troops forward, i.e. in the direction of the enemy.

The troops always march forwards. If they tried to march backwards they would bump into each other and fall over!

Answer

In your sentence either is possible because (a) you are moving forward (advancing) toward the yellow line, or (b) the vehicle is not reversing, it is moving forwards, until it reaches the line.

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  • As the link comment notes, forwards is not used in the U.S.
    – Xanne
    Jun 23, 2020 at 19:43
  • @Xanne - Interesting. What about "backwards"? Also do you used "toward" or "towards"? We seem to use all of them in the UK. Jun 23, 2020 at 19:47
  • Backward and backwards are both fine. So are toward and towards, but I see no use for towards except to make the language more sibilant.
    – Xanne
    Jun 23, 2020 at 19:59
  • @Xanne The link comment is wrong. Forward certainly is acceptable in the US—it's just not nearly as common. But, that aside, there is no dictionary difference between forward and forwards when used in the sense under discussion. Assigning a subtle difference of meaning between them is something entirely individual that isn't supported by any dictionary I've seen. Jun 24, 2020 at 13:46
  • @Jason Bassford - I say that the difference is indicated by usage. If I have time I'll back this up with the research. Jun 24, 2020 at 13:50

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