Difference Between Afterward and Afterwards

Main Difference

The main difference between the words afterward and afterwards is that afterward is an adverb as well as an adjective, whereas afterwards is only an adverb.

Afterward vs. Afterwards

There is no difference between the meaning of the words afterward and afterwards. In the parts of speech, the words afterward and afterwards fall into the category of an adverb. Afterward and afterwards, both the words are the adverbs of time. Both are the synonym of ‘later.’ Besides, both the words afterward and afterwards can be used as the variants of each other.

The difference between afterward and afterwards is in their “association with time.” Some words end with the suffix –ward. All such words have a parallel form with –wards suffix as well. The examples of such words are toward/towards, backward/backwards. The same is the case with these two words afterward and afterwards.

The meaning of the words afterward and afterwards is the same, but their use is different. The usage of both words varies based on different regions. The adverb afterward is common in American English on the flip side. The adverb afterwards is preferred in British English.

Afterward is an adverb of “directionality after time.” Afterwards is an adverb that describes a thing coming later. The adverb afterward is used in less formal situations. Its counterpart afterwards is used in more formal situations. Furthermore, the function of afterward and afterwards in a sentence is the same. Afterward can occasionally be an adjective. But afterwards cannot be used as an adjective because when a word ends with the suffix ‘-s,’ then it cannot be used other than an adverb.

The adverb afterward is used with an action. Its an example from Ernest Hemmingway’s novel Farewell to Arms, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.’’ The verb afterwards describes a succeeding or later time. Its example is, “The ladies went to the gym and afterwards went to the gym.”

In brief, both the words afterward and afterwards have the same spelling except for the addition of ‘s’ in afterwards. Afterward contains nine letters whereas afterwards contains ten letters as it has one additional letter ‘s’ at the end.

Comparison Chart

AfterwardAfterwards
An adverb referring to “directionality after time.”An adverb that describes a thing coming later
Status
Less formalMore formal
Parts of Speech
Adjective, adverbAdverb
Letters
NineTen
Use In
American EnglishBritish English

What is Afterward?

The adverb afterward is preferred in American English. Afterward is an adverb that describes a thing coming later. In modern usage, the words with the suffix “-ward” are common in North America and outside North America, the “-wards” form is more common. So the word afterward is commonly used in North America.

The use of afterward is common in American English. It is the adverb directing the time after.” Afterward does not direct physical locations but the events in time. Afterward is the “adverb of time.” It is the synonym of ‘later, after, subsequently, thereafter.”

The adverb afterward is used in less formal situations. Its counterpart afterwards is used in more formal situations. Afterward can occasionally be an adjective. But it is seen more as an adverb. The adverb afterward is used with an action. Its example forms the Ernest Hemmingway’s novel Farewell to Arms, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.’’

This word afterward contains nine letters. It is composed of the word “after” and a suffix “-ward.” Its use is not more common in British English. Although the North American publications are common with the use of ‘afterward.’ The use of afterward is demonstrated with the below-mentioned examples.

Examples

  • To get the soldiers to the castle was the afterward plan of action.
  • Jennifer and Elsa had a nice lunch and went out for shopping afterward.
  • The killer Afterward, buried the bodies in the ground.
  • “And afterward, that is one more person genuinely sorry and not experiencing mixed emotions to see you go.” [Globe and Mail]
  • I want you to go first; then, I am coming afterward.

What is Afterwards?

In the spoken or written English, some people may or may not add an -s to many directional adverbs. The adverb afterwards is also an example of one such adverb. It holds the same meaning as its counterpart afterward. The meaning of afterwards is “an adverb that describes a thing coming later in time.”

It has the same context as its counterpart afterward. However, it is different from its counterpart as its use is more formal. It is also mused in British English and outside North America. One can remember the use afterwards associated with British audiences with its S in the end. It can relate to the British town of Sussex.

Due to the use of afterwards as more formal, this form is preferred in formal writings. The forms with the suffix -s are the old genitive singular inflection as old English has left its mark in modern English. The addition of –s in ‘afterwards’ is a ‘possessive ending,’ also known as “Saxon genitive.” The verb afterwards describes a succeeding or later time. Its example is, “The ladies went to the gym and afterwards went to the gym.” ‘Afterwards’ contain a total ten letters. The synonyms of afterwards are “later, subsequently, etc.”

The speakers from outside the U.S. and Canada favor the form with this possessive ending afterwards. But this is not true I all cases as exceptions are always there. Afterwards cannot be used as an adjective like its counterpart afterward. It is because when a word ends with the suffix ‘-s,’ then it cannot be used other than an adverb.

Examples

  • Afterwards, John found out about the secret long.
  • My friend invested a lot in the company, and afterwards, she got a promotion.
  • “Afterwards, media trends went from “Romney won” to “Romney confidence soars.” [Irish Times]
  • I am going to for a morning walk, and afterwards, I am going to read some books in the library.
  • “She had received several phone calls afterwards about the problems caused by the outage.”

Key Differences

  1. The adverb afterward is common in American English on the flip side he adverb afterwards is preferred in British English.
  2. Afterward is an adverb of “directionality after time,” while afterwards is an adverb that describes a thing coming later.
  3. The adverb afterward is used in less formal situations; on the contrary, its counterpart afterwards is used in more formal situations.
  4. Afterward contains nine letters conversely afterwards contains ten letters.
  5. Afterward can be used as an adverb as well as an adjective; on the other hand afterwards cannot be used as an adjective. It is only an adverb.
  6. In modern use, the form afterward is more common in North America; on the contrary, the forms afterwards more common outside North America.
  7. The adverb afterward is used with an action contrarily; the verb afterwards describes a succeeding or later time.

Conclusion

Both words afterward and afterwards, mean the same thing. They have a slight difference, but they can be used interchangeably. The study of this article will reveal the difference between afterward and afterwards.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson

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