Difference Between Afterward and Subsequently

The words Afterward and Subsequently are both adverbs and quite similar in meaning, but when looked at 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.

Afterward vs Subsequently

The main difference between Afterward and Subsequently is that Afterward usually relates to events that occur relatively close together whereas ‘Subsequently’ means that something in time follows something else, but much later.  Afterward refers to events in time rather than directions or physical locations, but ‘Subsequently’ implies logical connection and deduction

Afterward and Subsequently

Afterward means ‘after the time mentioned’. It is only used as an adverb and describes an event that happens at a later time. Afterward is preferred in formal writing (including professional and academic writing) in comparison to its British counterpart ‘Afterwards’. Being a synonym of ‘later’, it is often 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 implied, and to refer that something follows something else in time or place.

Comparison Table Between Afterward and Subsequently

Parameters of ComparisonAfterwardSubsequently
MeaningAt a later timeAfter something else
OriginOld English æftanweard, combining æftan, “after,” and the direction suffix -weirdDerives from a Latin verb meaning ‘to follow.
UsageRefers to events in time that occur relatively close together.Describes something in time that follows something else. 
ImplicationsParticular reference to events in relation to time, and not directions or locations.Implies logical connection, deduction and also used when no cause is implied. 
Preference in Formal WritingPreferred over British counterpart ‘Afterwards’.Strongly preferred as carries a formal undertone and exhibits a significant sense of cause and effect

What is Afterward?

Afterward means ‘after the time mentioned’. An adverb is often used interchangeably with the words ‘after’ and ‘later’. It describes an action or event that happens in the near future at a later time. 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. Afterward generally refers to events in time, instead of physical locations or directions. The adverb is a synonym of the word ‘later’. Afterward is preferred in professional and academic writing in comparison to its British Counterpart ‘Afterwards’. The 3-syllable adverb establishes a connection between 2 events occurring at some time apart, so has proved to help take narratives forward. Thus, if we say that an event takes place ‘afterward’, 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, often 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 implied. When used in the sense that it follows something in time or place, it can mean ‘much later. In its aforementioned sense 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’. It is thought to have more of a feeling of cause and effect, hence is preferred over its counterparts in the context of formal writing. Thus, the 4-syllable adverb possesses a multi-faceted identity and thereby empowers readers and writers alike by offering a wide domain of usage.

It conveys connectivity in any form of usage, but 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 and thus is an effective way to enable easy retention of the information conveyed to the audience.

Main Differences Between Afterward and Subsequently

  1. Afterward means ‘after the time mentioned’ whereas ‘Subsequently’ means ‘after something else.
  2. Afterward describes an action that happens at a later time, but which occurs in a relatively close timeline with respect to 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 be used to imply logical connection and deduction, and also when no cause is implied.
  4. Afterward is preferred over its British counterpart ‘Afterwards’ informal (academic and professional) writing, but subsequently is preferred over Afterward (in the same context) because it exhibits more of a sense of cause and effect.
  5. Afterward 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.

Conclusion

Through a detailed analysis, it is clear that though the words ‘Afterward’ and ‘Subsequently’ hold similar meanings, they must be used mindfully so that the desired meanings (of both the words and corresponding textual passages) are conveyed effectively to the audience. 

‘Afterward’ means ‘at a later time’ and ‘Subsequently’ means ‘after something else, but ‘Afterward’ relates to events that occur relatively close together, whereas ‘Subsequently’ implies that the following event occurs much later than the occurrence of the initial event.

Afterward is used to particularly refer to events in relation to time (and not directions or locations), but ‘Subsequently’ can be used in a variety of ways. While it refers to something in time that follows something else, it can also be used to imply deduction, logical connection and is also a good fit for sentences where no cause is implied.

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
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