Difference Between Afterward and Afterwards (with Table)

The English language has seen changes in its words and their uses as it progresses. Different countries may use different words to convey the same meaning, and the same words can convey different meanings too. As humans evolve, their language evolves too. The usage of afterward and afterwards are examples of that. 

‘Afterward’ and ‘afterwards’ are two such adverbs that are spelt similarly and also 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 is used more in North American states while afterwards is used more by the English. They are used by different people depending upon their region and preference of people.

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

The difference between afterward and afterwards is that afterwards is only an adverb while afterward is an adverb as well as 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 colour of the rose.

Comparison Table Between Afterward and Afterwards

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 of 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 that take place 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 the British English. It is also a more formal version of it’s 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 as well as 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.

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Afterward

What is Afterwards?

Afterwards also means “at a later time”. It is synonymous to “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 go and 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 and not adjectives. For example, “If you want to move on, don’t look backwards.” The sentence here encourages one to not glance backwards and uses ‘backwards’ as an adverb.

Afterwards

Main Differences Between Afterward and Afterwards

  1. Afterward is used more in formal conversations while afterwards is used informally too.
  2. Afterward is used by American and Canadian authors. Afterwards on the other hand, is used by British authors.
  3. Afterward does not contain ‘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 is included in a group of words that end with the suffix ‘wards’.

Conclusion

Afterward and afterwards are both adverbs that have the same meaning. They both mean ‘at a later time’. Their spellings can be changed by adding or removing the ‘s’ at the end. 

It is pretty easy to confuse them for each other, but it doesn’t matter as they can be used interchangeably. For example,

  1. “We can play now and go to the carnival afterward.”
  2. “We can play now and go to the carnival afterwards.”

Here, the sentence means the same thing whether one uses ‘afterward’ or ‘afterwards’. One can be used in place of the other. But the case does not remain the same when one uses ‘afterward’ as an adjective.

Afterward came into existence around the 80th century in Britain and has been in use ever since. ‘Afterwards’ is it’s American counterpart. As American English has now influenced several regions around the world, most of them now use afterwards and not afterward.

This shows that there exists little difference between afterward and afterwards, except for their usage, but are divided by subtle differences between them.