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I have some question about the usage of the preposition "toward" here:

The remarks from the senior officials were part of what has been a steady drumbeat of bellicose comments toward Iraq this week, including remarks by Mr. Bush that have cheered many conservatives and worried some European and Arab allies.

How is "comments toward" somebody different from "comments about" somebody?

  • I agree that comments toward sounds odd. comments aimed at might be more idiomatic (in AmE). – Brian Hitchcock Jul 19 '15 at 19:27
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The author's intention in your particular context is to use the first definition from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

In the direction of

In other words those comments were oriented toward Iraq or aimed (targeted) Iraq.

As for the use of about, according to the definition #4 from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

a. In reference to; relating to; concerned with: a book about snakes.

would imply that those comments were made relating to Iraq, or concerning Iraq.

  • I still don't see the difference between "comments toward" and "comment about". You definitions suggest that "toward" is a cute rephrasing of "about". – meatie Jul 20 '15 at 18:02
  • @meatie, No, not at all. In the direction of is not the same as relating to. – Lucian Sava Jul 20 '15 at 18:36
  • But in the example sentence in the original question, would I get away with replacing "toward" with "about"? – meatie Jul 20 '15 at 18:58
  • @meatie, the example sentence reflects the author's intention. – Lucian Sava Jul 20 '15 at 19:04
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Comments about X would imply comments were not available in a medium where X could read/hear them. The entity making the comments is not trying to say anything to X.

Comments toward X implies that X can hear/read the comments, and the entity making the comments is using the medium where comments are stored or communicated as an indirect method of delivering a message to X.

  • So, "toward" means the comments were made in the presence of the recipient? – meatie Jul 19 '15 at 19:12
  • Not necessarily, for example, you can make a comment toward someone in an online forum or social network, which they may not physically read until later. Comments about X are not necessarily intended to be known by X, where as a comment toward X is. – LawrenceC Jul 19 '15 at 19:58
  • I still don't see the difference between "comments toward" and "comment about". It seems that "toward" is a cute rephrasing of "about". – meatie Jul 20 '15 at 18:03
  • It is in a way - when people make comments toward someone, as opposed to comments to someone, they are usually trying to avoid being direct for a reason such as politeness, passive-agressiveness, shyness, fear, political allegiances, etc. You could utter a comment toward X, with that comment not being about X. Such as your mother in law talking about you to her daughter - while you are in the room. – LawrenceC Jul 20 '15 at 20:38

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