Is There Any Differences Between Afterward and Later

Of Course There Are Differences In Meanings & Uses Between Them. They Are Used as Adverbs

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This lesson discusses the differences between afterwards and later in details. As adverbs, there are clear differences between them which this article covers with practical examples.

Meanings of Afterwards and Later As Adverbs : 

As adverbs, the word ‘afterward’ means ‘at a specified later time’ while the word ‘later’ means ‘at some unspecified future time’ implying any time in the future.

Remember ‘afterward’ is used when one action follows immediately after another one. And the word ‘later’ is generally used ‘to show something will happen or you will do something in the future’ though it has got other uses also. Look at the examples below : 

1. Mr. John and I arrived at the hotel at exactly 8 for the dinner. The others including my parents reached there afterward. (meaning they got to the hotel just after our arrival).
2. I am doing a work now. So I will call you afterward or afterwards. (meaning upon or just after finishing the work)
3. My father first reached home. Afterwards he made a call to my elder brother who lives abroad in the USA.
4. My son, you have to do your homework afterward. (meaning the boy is doing something now. After that he will have to do the homework).

Attention : You can say the word ‘afterward’ means ‘as soon as after something’. But that does not necessarily mean that the time must be in the future. It can be in the past as well meanings you can use the word ‘afterward’ in past time also. See the example below :

  1. Majority guests arrived at the program at 8 pm. But some reached afterwards or afterward.

Any Differences Between Afterward and Afterwards? 

Basically, in terms of meanings, there is no differences between the adverbs afterward and afterwards. Afterwards is mainly used in British English while the other in American English. 

In other words, Americans tend to use the word ‘afterward’ whereas British and Canadians mainly use ‘afterwards’ in speaking and writing.

Usages of ‘Later’ As Adverb : 

Meanings 1 : As an adverb, later means ‘at a time that following the other and the two times are in comparison to each other. See the sentences below :
1. I have arrived at office today later than you. (does not necessarily mean that the two times closely following each other).
2. You had reached there later than others.
3. Possibly I will be there later than you. (means I will get there a bit late than u.)

Meanings 2 : Later means ‘at some unspecified time in the future.’ Let us look at the sentences below :
1. The meeting is suspended for now and expected to take place later. (that time is not specific, it could be any time in the future).
2. I wanted to finish writing the project paper first. But the boss wanted me to do it later.
3. I am very busy at the moment. So please make a call later. (the speaker has not specified ‘when’).
4. My son will do the homework later. (this does not necessarily imply that he is doing something now and following that, he will finish his homework).

Attention : ‘Later’ does not necessarily mean that the unspecified time must be in the future. But it can be in the past also. See the sentence below :
1. Yesterday I reached home later than my father (did). So my mother scolded me badly.

To sum-up, the adverbs ‘afterward and afterwards have complex meanings and usages. So to gain a clear understanding on them, please practice them regularly. For more articles on such words & their usages, please keep browsing

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