Difference Between After and Afterwards (With Table)

The two words are virtually synonymous in the dictionary. The distinction, however, is in the language, and they are not always interchangeable. The reason for this is that the word ‘after’ has a considerably broader meaning and linguistic usage than the word ‘afterward.’

After vs Afterwards

The main difference between After and Afterwards is that After is a preposition, conjunction, and adverb, whereas Afterwards is a preposition, conjunction, and adverb. After refers to something that has previously been discussed, whereas Afterwards is only an adverb. It refers to following an event or period that has previously been described.

‘After’ is a preposition used by English speakers and writers to mean behind in place or position or later in time than something. ‘After,’ on the other hand, can be used as an adverb, conjunction, adjective, verbal auxiliary, or noun. It is also widely employed in phrasal verbs such as ‘look after,’ ‘go after,’ and ‘take after.’

Afterward‘ is exclusively used as an adverb. It also denotes after something has happened or at a later period. Often, native speakers, especially in British English, add a ‘s’ to ‘afterward’, therefore it must be emphasized that this is a variation on ‘afterward’. While there is no linguistic distinction between ‘afterward‘ and ‘afterwards,’ it should be noted that some speakers, particularly in North America, prefer ‘afterward.’ The meaning, however, remains the same.

Comparison Table Between After and Afterwards

Parameters of ComparisonAfterAfterwards
FunctionalityIt can be used as a preposition, an adverb, or a conjunction.It is usually an adverb.
FunctionIt is primarily used as a preposition to describe the subject or noun. However, depending on the situation, it has a plethora of different features.Afterward is exclusively used as an adverb to describe the action verb in a phrase.
Inclusion of affixesThis term has no affixes.In this term, the suffix “ward” is utilised.
PronunciationUK: ˈɑːf.tər, US: ˈæf.tɚUK: ˈɑːf.tər, US: ˈæf.tɚ
UsageAfter the ceremony, there will be a supper.The ceremony will last for an hour and afterwards, there will be a supper.

What is After?

After is generally a preposition. If something happens after a specific time or occurrence, it happens within the period that follows that time or event.

After (etymology: Old English fter, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch achter) is a multi-functional grammatical term that means ‘later than something; the following something in time,’ according to the Oxford dictionary. It also has another connotation that refers to position and location rather than time, ie: ‘next to and following somebody/something in order or importance’.

This term is used rather frequently in both written and spoken English, depending on the requirements of location, time, or even gluing a few phrases ornamentally. According to the international OEC (Oxford English Corpus) rating, the word ‘after’ is the 82nd most used term and is classified as one of the most often used prepositions among English speakers worldwide.

After is used in the following contexts:

as a preposition (after a noun): After breakfast, I went swimming.

as an adverb (without a following noun): He expired on August 8th and was buried the day after

as a conjunction (joining two clauses): Jitesh called me after you’d left.

What is Afterwards?

Technically a synonym of the preceding term, afterward (Old English fterwearde from ft “after” (see aft) + -weard suffix) is a frequent adverb with a ward suffix. There is, in fact, a little distinction between the literal definitions of after and afterwards. When just time is considered, after refers to a more comprehensive description, whereas afterward defines a correct and immediate time; explaining this with an example would be better.

Afterwards is an adverb that signifies later or in the future. If something happens after a certain event or time that has previously been described, it happens after that event or time. Afterwards is frequently used in statements such as not long after, soon after, and quickly after.

for example: She died shortly afterwards.

Her marriage ended shortly afterwards.

It should be noted, however, that ‘afterward’ is more commonly employed to complete a sentence since it sounds nicer than the adverb form of ‘after’. This is because ‘after’ as an adverb is a less common usage, and it makes a statement appear unfinished, as if ‘after’ were a preposition. ‘We are all going out to eat afterward,’ for example, is a more natural and normal way for a native speaker to phrase the statement than ‘We are all going out to eat later,’ but both are correct.

Main Differences Between After and Afterwards

  1. Both terms are essentially synonyms, however after is used as a more broad term, whereas afterward is more exact and defines the time of the verb more clearly. Despite the fact that many native English speakers use them interchangeably.
  2. After is mainly used as a preposition to identify the noun’s time, location, and position, but it may also be used as a conjunction, adverb, noun, or even an adjective. Afterward, on the other hand, is an adverb with no multi functional capacity.
  3. The term ‘afterward’ has an affix connected to it, ie: suffix-ward, but the word ‘after’ does not have any affix added to it.
  4. The word after is pronounced f.tr, but the term thereafter is pronounced f.t.wd.
  5. The term “afterward” is a derivation of the word “after.” When we consider their phraseology and derivations, afterward is the successor of the after.

Conclusion

Because the terms are synonyms and may both be used correctly as adverbs, the decision of when to use ‘after’ or ‘afterward’ is frequently a matter of aesthetic choice. While there is no distinction between ‘after’ as an adverb and ‘afterwards,’ most native speakers use ‘afterwards’ or ‘afterwards.’ This sounds more complete and provides the listener or reader the sense that an adverb is being used, especially when it occurs at the end of the phrase.

References

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/smi.2445
  2. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0263395717720932