Difference between ÅT and MOT (towards)?

[deactivated user]

    Hi everybody,

    just wanted to ask what is the difference between this two? They both seem to translate as 'towards', so I'm just interested in what context are they used.


    August 24, 2017



    Åt carries the "in the direction of" (or simply "in") meaning of towards (but only in space - not time) and seems to only be used for m̶o̶r̶e̶ LESS concrete directions. In this meaning, I believe that mot is mostly if not entirely synonymous:

    • Åt vilket håll? In which direction?
    • Åt höger. To the right.
    • Styra åt norr. Steer towards the north.
    • Vik åt sidan. Move to the side / Step aside.

    Åt can also mean "on behalf of" when used with a person, often meaning that you were doing them some kind of favour or even that they were unable to do it alone.

    • Jag handlade åt mormor. I shopped for Grandma (because she couldn't).

    There are also words built on åt such as "uppåt" (up to, upwards, up towards) and so on.

    • Gå uppåt floden. Go up the river.

    Mot can means towards as in "in the direction of" too but works both in space:

    • Jag lutar mig mot väggen. I am leaning against the wall (space).
    • Kör mot staden. Drive towards the town (space).

    And in time:

    • Mot kvällen. Towards the evening.
    • Mot slutet av året. Towards the end of the year.

    Mot can also mean against (see also emot):

    • Jag har ingenting emot dig. I have nothing against you.
    • Han gjorde det mot hennes vilja. He did it against her will.

    Mot can additionally mean "to" (comparisons).

    • Det är ingenting mot vad jag har sett. That is nothing to what I have seen.

    There is a lot of overlap and sometimes you can use both. Mot can be used in more cases though.

    In conclusion - prepositions are hard. No one can learn all the rules, you merely use the one that feels best and pay attention to what native/advanced speakers use and in time, it comes.

    Not sure whether to use till, åt, för, om etc.? It's probably till for to and för for for. And the exceptions? Learn them case by case. Ask people to point out when you misuse them, even, if you want.

    August 24, 2017


    Jag har aldrig hört talas om att man säger "gå uppåt floden". Jag skulle snarare säga "gå uppför floden".

    August 26, 2017


    Jag tror att det går bra med antingen eller.

    August 26, 2017


    You say that åt is used for 'more concrete directions', but isn't it the other way around – it's only used about more general directions. Like east and west or left and right, but if you use it with something concrete like skolan for instance, you want to add till too: ?gå åt skolan but possibly gå åt skolan till.

    August 27, 2017


    Indeed, I used the wrong word. :( Or rather, I think I meant to say less concrete directions.

    I've edited my post to reflect this.

    August 27, 2017
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