• 2-minute read
  • 26th December 2020

Word Choice: Toe vs. Tow

The words ‘toe’ and ‘tow’ sound the same but have different meanings. And it’s essential to know the difference to ensure clarity in your writing. Our guide below will show you how to pick the right spelling.

Toe (Digits on the End of the Foot)

The noun ‘toe’ refers to a digit at the end of a foot:

She has a massive blister on her big toe.

I accidentally stepped on his toe.

Most people have five toes on each foot.

It can also refer to the part of a sock or shoe that covers the toes:

I have a hole in the toe of my sock.

More rarely, ‘toe’ can be a verb meaning ‘touch with a toe or toes’. You are most likely to see this in the phrase ‘toe the line’:

Staff members are expected to toe the company line.

This phrase means ‘follow the rules’ or ‘conform to a standard’.

Human toes.
These digits, in case you weren’t sure!
(Photo: tiburi)

Tow (Pull Something Behind a Vehicle)

As a verb, ‘tow’ typically refers to pulling something behind a car, truck, or boat using a rope or chain. For instance:

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We watched the tugboat tow the ocean liner into the harbour.

We towed our caravan behind the car.

‘Tow’ can also refer to dragging something more generally:

Jack towed his sledge up the hill.

It follows, then, that the noun ‘tow’ refers to the act of towing:

When my car broke down, I called a tow truck to fetch it.

Whether it is a verb or a noun, though, ‘tow’ is always spelled with a ‘w’.

Summary: Toe or Tow?

These words are similar, so it’s easy to mix them up. But remember:

  • Toe is a noun that refers to one of digits at the end of your foot.
  • Tow can be a verb that means ‘pull something behind you’ (usually with a vehicle) or a noun that refers to the act of towing.

If you are struggling to tell these words apart remember that ‘toe’ always has to do with feet. And if you need a word for pulling something, it will always be ‘tow’. If you’d like any more help with spelling or any other aspect of your writing, why not try our proofreading service for free today?

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