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Afterward vs. Afterwards — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on October 3, 2023
Afterward and afterwards both refer to a subsequent time; "afterward" is commonly used in American English, while "afterwards" is prevalent in British English, with both being interchangeable.
Afterward vs. Afterwards — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Afterward and Afterwards


Key Differences

Delineating "Afterward" and "Afterwards," these terms predominantly share meaning but exhibit a slight geographical preference in usage. "Afterward" often finds more usage in American English, serving to indicate a period or event that follows another. On the other hand, "Afterwards" gravitates more towards British English, while equally signifying a time or event subsequent to another, revealing that the distinction is minor and mostly regional.
In practice, one might say, “We went to dinner, and afterward, we saw a movie.” This implies that the act of seeing the movie occurred subsequent to dining. Similarly, one might assert, “We had lunch, and afterwards, we went for a walk,” denoting that the walk followed the meal, further establishing that the practical usage of "Afterward" and "Afterwards" is nearly identical.
Applying "Afterward" in a literary context, an author might write, “The kingdom fell, and afterward, chaos reigned.” This usage underscores a chronological progression, where chaos follows the fall of the kingdom. Alternatively, employing "Afterwards" in literature, it could be written, “The hero died, and afterwards, the land mourned,” again highlighting a sequential order of events without a marked divergence in meaning or usage between the two words.
In everyday conversation, "Afterward" might find application such as: “We will discuss the plan, and afterward, decide on action.” This reveals a scheduled sequentiality, wherein discussion precedes decision. Conversely, "Afterwards" can be conversely integrated, like: “He will present his case, and afterwards, she will present hers,” also representing a planned sequence of events, and thereby showcasing the words' functional interchangeability.
Distinguishing the two in a technical or formal context might present as: “The procedure will be conducted, and afterward, an evaluation will occur.” This conveys a structured chronology of events. Simultaneously, a sentence like, “The experiment will be initiated, and afterwards, data will be collected,” doesn’t disrupt or alter the intended conveyance of sequence, affirming the words as practically synonymous.

Comparison Chart

Common Usage

American English
British English

Part of Speech



At a later or subsequent time
Subsequent to a particular time

Example Usage

We left shortly afterward.
We'll have tea afterwards.


Almost synonymous with afterwards.
Almost synonymous with afterward.

Compare with Definitions


At a subsequent time.
They left shortly afterward.


At a following point in time.
See you at the party; we’ll go for a walk afterwards.


Occurring at a later period.
He discovered it only long afterward.


In the time that follows.
They discussed it and solved the problem afterwards.


Later in time or order.
He remembered it clearly long afterward.


Following an event.
She left, and shortly afterwards so did I.


Ensuing subsequently.
Afterward, he regretted the decision.


Ensuing at a later time.
We had lunch; the meeting was shortly afterwards.


Following in time.
We will eat dinner, afterward go to the cinema.


Subsequent to a particular incident or time.
He found out about it long afterwards.


"Afterward" is a short story by American writer Edith Wharton. It was first published in the 1910 edition of The Century Magazine.


At a later time; subsequently.


At a later time; subsequently.


(temporal location) At a later or succeeding time.


(US) afterwards


At a later or succeeding time.


Happening at a time subsequent to a reference time;
He apologized subsequently
He's going to the store but he'll be back here later
It didn't happen until afterward
Two hours after that


Happening at a time subsequent to a reference time;
He apologized subsequently
He's going to the store but he'll be back here later
It didn't happen until afterward
Two hours after that

Common Curiosities

Is there a difference in meaning between Afterward and Afterwards?

No, they are essentially synonymous.

Which is older, Afterward or Afterwards?

Both have similar etymological ages in English.

Can Afterwards be used in formal writing?

Yes, it is acceptable in both formal and informal contexts.

Is Afterward used in British English?

Yes, but Afterwards is more common.

Does Afterwards imply an immediate following?

Not necessarily; it means at some point after.

Is Afterwards used in American English?

Yes, but Afterward is more common.

Can either term be used at the start of a sentence?

Yes, both can start a sentence or follow a comma.

Can Afterward and Afterwards be used interchangeably?

Yes, they can be used interchangeably in most contexts.

Is Afterward more formal than Afterwards?

No, they both have similar formalities.

Can Afterward end a sentence?

Yes, e.g., "He left shortly afterward."

Does Afterward always refer to time?

Predominantly, yes - it refers to subsequent timing.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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