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I wrote:

Figure 4 shows an increase in the total electrostatic potential from the water phase to/toward the IL phase.

enter image description here

Is it "to" or "toward" here? what's the difference?

I think it must be "to", however, I wonder "toward" can be also used because I want to show a direction.

  • Is there a physical movement? If so, "toward" should be OK. If not, I would use "compared to". – user3169 Dec 7 '18 at 23:52
  • @user3169 It's about a figure, I now added to the question. – Ahmad Dec 8 '18 at 6:18
  • Then I would use "...potential going/changing/transitioning from the IL phase to the Water phase". I think "toward" can't be used because there is no real direction. – user3169 Dec 8 '18 at 6:33
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I would use "to" there. For "toward" to work, there would have to be some obvious progression happening from one state to another, which would need to be spelled out.

  • Thank you, you can check the picture I added to my question. – Ahmad Dec 8 '18 at 6:20
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I find it hard to think of an example where it is necessary to use 'toward' (British usually prefer 'towards') instead of 'to'.

Speakers tend to reserve 'toward' for when they specifically want to show a direction of movement or progressive change from one state to another.

  • @Ahmad Online dictionaries contain plenty of suitable examples of the correct use of 'toward'. I could not improve on them. – Ross Murray Dec 8 '18 at 10:50
  • I know, but the examples could make your meaning more clear! – Ahmad Dec 8 '18 at 10:53

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