What is the difference between towards and toward?

Do you have difficulty choosing between toward and towards, forward and forwards as well as backward and backwards? If you do, you need not worry too much because many other people have the same experience. This piece will explain the difference(s) between them.

Well, some believe the two terms in each pair are ‘same of the same’, borrowing a pun from the recent Lagos political history. So, they opt for whichever comes to their minds at a particular time. This is understandable but it may not always work because, as close as the meanings of the words are, it is not all the times that they are interchangeable.

British or American English?

Toward and towards mean the same thing. They are both adverbs meaning in the direction of, closer to someone/something or in relation to someone or something:

    I became nervous when he started walking towards me.

    The girls leaned towards her mother as if she wanted to say something.

    The Tinubu government’s policy towards education is not yet clear.

The only difference between them is that ‘towards’ is the British English version while ‘toward’ is American. We favour the first more in Nigeria where British English is dominant.

Backward vs Backwards

Backwards and backward can also be interchangeably used in certain contexts, although ‘backwards’ is more associated with British English. So, either can be used when it means ‘in the direction of one’s back (as of movement) and back towards the starting point (for an object in motion).

There is, however, a situation ‘backward’ is exclusively used: when, as an adjective, it means unintelligent, unprogressive etc.:

The system is simply backward.

    Recent development shows that this country is backward.

Forward, forwards, foreword

Forwards, among other meanings, implies ‘towards the direction that is in front of you’, according to Cambridge Dictionary. While ‘forwards’ is mainly UK, ‘forward’ seems to be more popularly used even in Nigeria:

     She moved forward a little before throwing the ball.

     As the ball rolled forward, the boy began to run after it.

Note, however, that ‘forward’ and ‘foreword’ are more than 100 miles apart in terms of meaning and uses. The short introductory part of a book, typically written by a person other than the author, is called ‘foreword’. This is not at all synonymous with ‘forward. Unfortunately, some do mix them up, to the extent that some publications bear ‘Forward’ where ‘Foreword’ should be:

There are some errors in the forward to the book. (Wrong)

There are some errors in the foreword to the book. (Correct)


Afterwards and afterward mean the same thing: after the time mentioned. Again, the first is UK while the second is American.

They bought fuel, and afterwards they left for Kano.

    The President delivered his speech, and shortly afterwards the celebrator made a remark.

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