Afterward vs. Afterwards: Which Is Correct?

English grammar and English dialects pose some challenging rules. Should you use the adverb afterward vs. afterwards? Read on to find out!

When it comes to the adverb afterward or afterwards which is correct? It may surprise you to learn that this is one of the most commonly confused words in the English language. Afterward and afterwards both mean the same thing. Neither one of these words is incorrect, but we’ll help you decide which you should use.

British and Canadian English speakers prefer saying afterwards while American English speakers will typically say afterward. Regardless of dialect, most English speakers will understand that these are different spellings of the same word, so you shouldn’t be met with confusion for saying afterwards in North America.

As playwright George Bernard Shaw put it: “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.” However, given that American English is becoming more popular in the U.K., you might also notice that native British speakers use the American version – afterward – too.

If you use a grammar checker like Grammarly, check out our article on how to change Grammarly languages and never make an error in dialect again.

Afterward vs. Afterwards

As mentioned earlier, neither of these words is incorrect. They are simply different spellings and pronunciations of the same word.

While British English speakers are more likely to say afterwards, this isn’t a hard and fast rule as many people use them interchangeably. It’s not wrong to use either term in casual conversations, but for formal writing, afterward is considered the better choice regardless of dialect.

Both afterward and afterwards are adverbs, meaning they are used to modify verbs, other adverbs, or adjectives. In other words, adverbs describe verbs by altering the context or providing more detail. For example:

  • “I will clean the dishes afterward.”

By adding “afterward” to this sentence, you are giving a timeframe for when the dishes will be washed, albeit a vague one.

How To Use Afterward Or Afterwards

Below are some example sentences illustrating how to use afterward and afterwards. You can swap the spelling of the word in each of these sentences without altering the meaning:

  • I have an appointment, but I’ll meet up with you afterwards.
  • She only found out she was lied to afterward.
  • I went shopping and misplaced my new shoes afterwards.
  • We should go back to the hotel afterward.
  • I have to push the meeting off until afterwards, I have too much work to catch up on.
  • He said he would return my study notes afterward.
  • Not long afterwards, he started feeling unwell.
  • Don’t be late, we’re seeing a movie afterward.

You might also be interested in our guide on how to change American English to British English.

Afterward & Afterwards Synonyms

Afterward vs. Afterwards Synonyms

If you’re learning English and want to expand your vocabulary, below are some synonyms for afterward and afterwards:

  • A later time
  • Later on
  • Next
  • Subsequently
  • In due course
  • After
  • Following this
  • Soon
  • Another time
  • Eventually

Keep in mind that depending on the context or what specially you’re trying to say, some of these may not be a perfect replacement. For example, you wouldn’t say “eventually” if there is a specified time for something to occur that isn’t too far into the future.

Did Afterward Or Afterwards Come First?

Afterward is believed to have come first. It is derived from the Old English word æfterwearde, which originally meant “behind.” “Weard” was a suffix meaning toward or in a certain direction, while “æft” simply meant “after.” Today, the suffix “ward” is still used in modern English to refer to directions. You’ll spot it in words like “backward,” “forward,” and “sideward.”

The first recorded use of afterward was prior to the year 1150.

Although you might hear claims that American English is older as it is believed to have more in common with the English spoken by English settlers in the 1600s, it would be more accurate to say that these dialects simply evolved separately. Spelling wasn’t standardized in dictionaries in the 1600s; American spellings are based on how the words sound, while British spellings retain traces of the language the vocabulary was borrowed from.

Are Afterward And Afterwards Homophones?

Afterward and afterwards are not homophones. Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings, for example, flour and flower or sea and see.

Afterward and afterwards are the same words with the exact same meaning. The only difference is a slight change in spelling and pronunciation. Other examples of pairs of words like this are color and colour or gray and grey.

Afterword vs. Afterward

Afterword vs. Afterward
The afterword is a section of a book, specifically a concluding section of commentary from the author after the final chapter

Afterward and afterwards are often confused with afterword. Although these words sound similar, they have a different meaning. As mentioned earlier, afterward and afterwards are ways to express that something will happen later.

The afterword is a section of a book, specifically a concluding section of commentary from the author after the final chapter. In it, the author might explain how the book came to be. This is not to be confused with an epilogue, which is essentially a final chapter that’s usually written from the perspective of the character after the events of the story unfolded.

Afterwords is a plural version of afterword. You would only use this word if you were talking about several afterwords in a book or series of books.

Another key difference between these words is that afterwards and afterward are adverbs while afterword is a noun because the concluding pages of a book are a tangible thing. A noun is used to represent people, places, animals, or things.

Should English Learners Use Afterward Or Afterwards?

What word English learners should use, depends on whether you’re learning American or British English. Although native speakers might use these words interchangeably, if you plan on living in the United States, for example, it would make more sense to focus on perfecting American English.

It is seen as more professional to use consistent spellings associated with your dialect of choice in your writing. You might even be penalized for using inconsistent spellings in English exams.

With that said, British English speakers are familiar with a lot of American terms and slang, and vice versa. This is because American TV shows and movies are popular in the U.K., and social media allows us to connect with English speakers from all around the world. It is wise to familiarize yourself with some phrases from the other dialect so you can keep up.

If you liked this post, you might also be interested in our list of the best books for IELTS preparation.


  • Aisling is an Irish journalist and content creator with a BA in Journalism & New Media. She has bylines in OK! Magazine, Metro, The Inquistr, and the Irish Examiner. She loves to read horror and YA. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.