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We can say passion for sports スポーツに対する情熱 or a mother's love for her children, but for some reason we can't replace for with towards.

By the same token, attitude towards someone 誰かに対する態度, behavior towards someone, we can't switch towards with for.

The sentence 誰かに対する考え can't be translated using towards nor for. thoughts on someone, is the most natural, yet for some reason its completely natural to use 対する

I'm aware that maybe there is some distinction between feelings, and attitude/behavior, but my brain always likes to automatically translate 対する to towards, and I'm trying to figure out what it is about the word towards that makes it fallacious to associate with that word

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With the English language, "towards" can be ambiguous without context. "Towards" can mean either "in the direction of" or "in relation to". に対する typically means "in relation to" or "face or oppose", so as an alternative to スポーツに対する情熱 or a mother's love for her children, you could say a mother's love towards her children and you can still understand the meaning (even if it sounds a little wierd). Same thing with 誰かに対する態度, behavior towards someone, again you could say behavior "facing" someone and you may still be able to get the general meaning.

In the end, it really just depends on if "towards" or "for" fits which sentance you are constructing. Yes, it may be difficult do de-associate the Japanese word 対する exclusively to towards and sometimes exchange it for for, but you'll get there.

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