You use after, afterwards, and later to talk about things that happen at a time following the time of speaking or following a particular event.

You can use after as a preposition.

1. After dinner she got hold of the President and spoke to him.
2. He resigned after allegations that he was involved in drug-trafficking.

You can also use after as a conjunction.

3. I returned to England only recently, after spending two months in India.
4. His fame grew after he left the hospital.

In expressions like ‘shortly after’ and ‘not long after’, you can use after as an adverb.

5. Douglas came round to see me, and soon after I met him again at a friend’s.
6. Shortly after, Fania called me.

Afterwards can also be used as an adverb when you do not need to mention the particular time or event.

7. Afterwards we went to a night club.
8. You’d better come up to my room afterwards and show me what you’ve got.

You can use later as an adverb to refer to a time or situation that is after the one that you have been talking about, or following the time of speaking.

9. I returned some three or four weeks later.
10. I’ll go round and see Nell later.

You can use all these words after a phrase which mentions a period of time to say when something happens.

11. She wrote about it six years afterwards.
12. Ten minutes later Sutherland grabbed a microphone.
13. …five hundred years after his death.

• The words ‘shortly’, ‘soon’, and ‘long’ can be used with both after and afterwards.

14. He was back in the hotel shortly after six.
15. Soon afterwards, Ira came storming into the clinic.
16. …under a tree known long afterwards as the Queen’s Oak.

• ‘A little’, ‘much’, and ‘not much’ can be used with later.

17. A little later, the faint blue glow of the emergency lights went out.
18. I learned all this much later.