Which is most proper? "Toward" or "Towards"

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I always get confused using "toward" and "towards"...I read somewhere one is used more in British language than American...(I'm American).  For years I've basically settled on connecting "toward" to plural objects, and "towards" to singular objects, and I've been told even that is okay.  What is most correct?

2 answers


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The best help I can be to you on this great question is to quote straight out of Michael Swan's Practical English Usage, 3rd edition, page 606: this answer covers words that end in -wards, like backward(s), forward(s), northward(s), outward(s) and toward(s).  The direct quote is in boldface:

 

1. adjectives

 

When they are used as adjectives, they do not have -s.

This country is very backward in some ways.

You're not allowed to make a forward pass in rugby.

He was last seen driving in a northward direction.

 

2. adverbs

 

When these words are adverbs, they can generally be used with or without -s.  The forms with -s are generally a little more common in British English, and the forms without -s in American English.

Why are you moving backward(s) and forward(s)?

If we keep going upward(s) we must get to the top.

Let's start driving homeward(s).

In some figurative expressions such as look forward to, bring forward, put forward, the form without -s is always used.

I look forward to hearing from you.

She put forward a very interesting suggestion.

 

3. other words

 

Towards and afterwards are the usual forms in British English; in American English, toward and afterward are also common.

 

Hope this helps!

link comment edited Nov 25 '12 at 14:58 Shawn Mooney Expert
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Shawn gives his answer from a British English perspective, although he gets to the American English answer at the end. For British English, Swan's Practical English Usage is a worthy successor to Fowler's great works.  For American English, Garner's Modern American Usage (3rd edition, 2009, Oxford University Press) is the current authority on proper usage. Modeled directly after the British Fowler's, Garner's addresses directional terms ending in -ward beginning on page 259.

 

"In AmE, the preferred practice is to use the -ward form of directional words, as in toward, forward, and westward. Words ending in -ward may either be adjecties or adverbs, whereas words ending in -wards, common in BrE, may be adverbs only. These are typical preferred AmE forms: cityward, coastward, downward, outward, rearward, shoreward, sideward, skyward, sunward, toward, upward.

 

"An exception in AmE is the adverb backwards, which is used frequently (though still less often than backward). (It's anomalous that many people who say forward also say backwards). When backward and forward combine in a phrase (either word coming first), be consistent about using the -s; by far, the most common AmE usage is to leave it off both words. As an adjective, only backward is accepted <a backward move>."

 

None of my references -- either American or British -- speak of -ward relating to single or plural objects.

 

I hope this helps.

link edited Nov 25 '12 at 15:23 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

I can't find anything in any of my references about objects either.

TolleyNov 25 '12 at 16:50

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