Afterward vs Subsequently: Difference and Comparison

The words Afterward and Subsequently are both adverbs and quite similar in meaning, but when examined closely, they are found to be quite different in all aspects, including origin, implied meanings, and usage.

While ‘Afterward’ is synonymous with ‘later’ and is used in the same sense, usage of Subsequently can mean ‘much later.

Key Takeaways

  1. Both “afterward” and “subsequently” indicate that something happens following a prior event, but “afterward” is more informal and conversational.
  2. “Subsequently” is used in formal writing or to emphasize the order of events, while “afterward” is more suitable for everyday speech.
  3. “Subsequently” tends to be more precise in expressing a sequence, while “afterward” implies a looser connection between events.

Afterwards vs Subsequently

Afterwards means later or following an event, and it is used to describe something that happens after a specific event or action. Subsequently means afterwards in time or later on. It is used to describe something that occurs after a certain period or as a result of a previous action.

Afterward vs Subsequently

Afterwards means ‘after the time mentioned’. It is only used as an adverb and describes an event that happens later.

Afterwards is preferred in formal writing (including professional and academic writing) compared to its British counterpart ‘Afterwards.

Being a synonym of ‘later’, it is used interchangeably with the words ‘after’ and’ later’.

Subsequently means ‘after something else. An adverb describes something in time that follows something else.

It carries more of a feeling of cause and effect.

It is used to imply a logical connection, but can also be used when no cause is indicated, and to refer that something follows something else in time or place.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonParticular reference to events about time, and not directions or locations.Subsequently
MeaningAt a later timeAfter something else
OriginOld English æftanweard, combining æftan, “after,” and the direction suffix -weirdOld English æftanweard, combining æftan, “after,” and the direction suffix -weird
UsageRefers to events in time that occur relatively close together.It implies logical connection, deduction and also used when no cause is implied. 
ImplicationsParticular reference to events in relation to time, and not directions or locations.Strongly preferred as it carries a formal undertone and exhibits a significant sense of cause and effect
Preference in Formal WritingDerives from a Latin verb meaning ‘to follow.Strongly preferred as it carries a formal undertone and exhibits a significant sense of cause and effect.

What is Afterward?

Afterwards means ‘after the time mentioned’. An adverb is used interchangeably with the words ‘after’ and ‘later’. It describes an action or event that happens shortly at a later time.

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Since its meaning can also be put as ‘after another event or time’, it is clear that it refers to events that occur relatively close together but at a later or succeeding time.

The word is derived from the Old English æftanweard, which combines æftan ‘after’ and the direction suffix -weard. Afterwards refers to time events instead of physical locations or directions.

The adverb is a synonym of the word ‘later’.

Afterwards is preferred in professional and academic writing compared to its British Counterpart ‘Afterwards’.

The 3-syllable adverb establishes a connection between 2 events occurring at some time apart, so it has proved to help take narratives forward.

Thus, if we say that an event takes place ‘afterwards’, we mean that it will happen after a particular time or event (that has taken place/ has been mentioned previously).

Synonymous with the words ‘eventually’ and ‘later’, the adverb does not have multiple domains of usage but is a commonly used word, used to give the sentence/ narrative a concluding undertone.

What is Subsequently?

Subsequently means ‘after something else. It is also an adverb that describes something in time that follows something else.

Alternatively, it can also be used to imply logical connection and deduction but is also used when no cause is indicated.

It can mean’ much later when used in the sense that it follows something in time or place.

In its sense above of meaning and usage, ‘Subsequently’ was first used in 1537.

It is believed to have been derived from the Latin verb subsequent, meaning ‘to follow’.

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It is thought to have more of a feeling of cause and effect, hence is preferred over its counterparts in formal writing.

Thus, the 4-syllable adverb possesses a multi-faceted identity and thereby empowers readers and writers by offering a vast domain of usage.

It conveys connectivity in any form of usage. Still, in doing that, it first differentiates the initial event and the following event, establishing their independent natures in the audience’s mind, and then connects the two narratives by exhibiting a connection between the two.

This kind of usage automatically grants the overall narrative a distinct quality of conclusiveness. It is thus an effective way to retain the information conveyed to the audience easily.

Main Differences Between Afterward and Subsequently

  1. Afterwards means ‘after the time mentioned’ whereas ‘Subsequently’ means ‘after something else.
  2. Afterwards describes an action that happens later but occurs in a relatively close timeline concerning the initial event. Subsequently refers to something in time that follows something else, in relation to time or place, but it can mean ‘much later.
  3. While ‘Afterward’ particularly refers to events in time, ‘Subsequently’ can also imply logical connection and deduction when no cause is implied.
  4. Afterwards is preferred over its British counterpart, ‘Afterwards’ informal (academic and professional) writing. It subsequently is preferred over Afterward (in the same context) because it exhibits more of a sense of cause and effect.
  5. Afterwards is derived from the Old English æftanweard combining æftan, “after,” and the direction suffix -weard, whereas ‘Subsequently’ derives from a Latin verb meaning ‘to follow.
Difference Between Afterward and Subsequently
References
  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1972-02815-001https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1972-02815-001
  2. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa022952

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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