In a fantasy world where dragons exist, you meet an old woman who saw where the dragon, which some time ago attacked a nearby village, went about ten minutes ago. You ask her, "Did you see where the dragon went (the line isn't mine, from a computer game in the same situation) ?", can she answer with "It went towards Riften (a city in the south)" even though she doesn't know if the dragon has reached the city yet(it's a long way) and even if it will actually ever reach it? If "It went towards Riften" isn't good, does "It set off to Riften" better?

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    "It went towards Riften" means the dragon went in the direction of Riften. It says nothing about whether it arrived there. Aug 7, 2022 at 7:45
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    @Michael Harvey You're not a gragon. Aug 7, 2022 at 7:55
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    You could say "I left for Moscow at 8:20." Aug 7, 2022 at 8:24
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    @IlyaTretyakov It went towards Riften only specifies the direction she saw the gragon going. It says nothing about if or when it arrived there or even if it ever intended to go all the way there at all. As Michael Harvey says, by going out of his back door he is heading in the direction of Gloucester, but he has no intention of actually going to Gloucester. Aug 7, 2022 at 10:01
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    @IlyaTretyakov Exactly! I'm afraid Mr Murphy is wrong. "went to" means you were actually in Moscow at some point, whilst "went towards" only means that for a while you travelled in the direction of Moscow. It says nothing about whether you actually got there or even if you intended to go all the way. I could also say "I left my house in the direction of Moscow", but Moscow is over 1860 miles away and I have no intention of going there, I'm just starting out in an easterly direction and going 7 miles down the road to Abingdon. Aug 7, 2022 at 10:28

1 Answer 1


"It went towards Riften" is good. It simply describes the dragon's direction of travel (something that the old woman could observe). It does not imply that the dragon has arrived, nor that it will ever arrive. It does not say anything about the dragon's intentions, desires, hopes or plans.

"It set off to Riften" is worse. It implies that the dragon intends to travel to Riften. Unless the old woman has been talking to the dragon about its future plans, how could she know what the dragon intends?

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