Difference Between Afterward and Afterwards

The English language has seen changes in its words and uses as it progresses. Different countries may use different words to convey the same meaning, and the same words can convey different meanings too.


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As humans evolve, their language evolves too. The usage of afterward and afterward are examples of that.  ‘Afterward’ and ‘afterwards’ are two such adverbs spelled similarly and have the same meaning. Adverbs are words that describe a word.

Both afterward and afterwards mean ‘at a later future time’. They are both used in association with time.  Afterward, it was used more in North American states, while afterwards, it was used more by the English. They are used by different people depending upon their region and people’s preference.

While the adverb ‘afterward’ has the suffix ‘ward,’ ‘afterwards’ has ‘wards’ as a suffix. Afterward came into origin before afterwards and had more formal usage than the other. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Afterward is an adverb that refers to something that happens after a specific event.
  2. Afterwards is also an adverb, but it’s commonly used in British English and has the same meaning as afterward.
  3. Afterward is the preferred term in American English, whereas afterwards is more common in British English.

Afterward vs. Afterwards

The difference between afterward and afterwards is that afterwards is only an adverb, while afterward is an adverb and an adjective. An adjective is a word that is used to describe something or someone. For example, “A red rose blooms in the garden.” Here red is used as an adjective and describes the color of the rose.

Afterward vs Afterwards

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAfterwardAfterwards
FunctionMeans ‘in a later future time’. Used more in formal conversations.Also means the same thing. Used more as a part of informal conversations.
CompositionThe word does not have the letter ‘s’ at the end.The word does have the letter ‘s’ at the end.
UsageAfterward can be used as an adverb as well as an adjective.Afterwards is only used as an adverb for time.
Included in a particular group of wordsIncluded in a group of words that end with the suffix ‘ward’, like afterward, backward, forward, etc.Included in a group of words that end with the suffix ‘wards’, like forwards, backwards, afterwards, etc.
Region of UseUsed in Northern American states and other parts of America.Used in England.

What is Afterward?

Afterward is an adverb that can be used interchangeably with ‘after’ and ‘later.’ It is used to define an event occurring at a later time. It is used in sentences that have two or more events occurring subsequently. For example, “She went to work and then for food at a restaurant afterward.” 

It can also be used in sentences in widely separated timelines. For example, “She was married in 1999 and had her children long afterward.”  Afterward is more common in American English rather than British English. It is also a more formal version of its counterpart.

Afterward can also be used as an adjective sometimes. For example, “The afterward course of action was to infiltrate the enemy lines.” Words ending with ‘ward’ can be used as an adjective and an adverb.

For example,

  1. The forward-thinking man did not look like one at all.
  2. “She looked forward and kept going on.”

The first sentence here uses ‘forward’ as an adjective and describes the man as “forward-thinking.” The second sentence, on the other hand uses ‘forward’ as an adverb and tells us where the woman looked before moving forward.


What is Afterwards?

Afterwards also means “at a later time.” It is synonymous with “later” and “after.” Afterwards can only be used as an adverb, unlike afterward. For example, “We can go to the store for shopping afterwards.”

Afterwards is more commonly used in English than afterward. It is a part of British English, unlike afterward. Hence it is prevalent in more parts of the world. The adverb is used in less formal situations, but the function remains the same as afterward.

For example, “We can get coffee from Starbucks afterwards.” Unlike afterward, afterwards can only be used as an adverb. Afterwards is not added to show an action that happens subsequently after another.

Words ending with the suffix ‘wards’ can only be used as adverbs, not adjectives. For example, “If you want to move on, don’t look backwards.” The sentence here encourages one not to glance backwards and uses ‘backwards’ as an adverb.


Main Differences Between Afterward and Afterwards

  1. Afterward is used more in formal conversations, while afterwards is used informally too.
  2. Afterward, it is used by American and Canadian authors. Afterwards, on the other hand, it is used by British authors.
  3. Afterward does not contain an ‘s’ in the end, while afterwards consists of an ‘s’ in the end.
  4. Afterward can be used as an adverb as well an adjective. But afterwards can only be used as an adverb.
  5. Afterward is included in a group of words that end with the suffix ‘ward,’ and afterwards in a group that ends with the suffix ‘wards.’
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