Afterward vs Before - What's the difference?

afterward | before |

As adverbs the difference between afterward and before

is that afterward is (us) subsequently to some other action while before is at an earlier time.

As a preposition before is

earlier than (in time).

As a conjunction before is

in advance of the time when.




  • (US) subsequently to some other action
  • Derived terms

    * afterwardness


    * (Commonwealth English ) afterwards


    * beforehand

    See also

    * afterword




    (English prepositions)
  • Earlier than (in time).
  • * (Jonathan Swift) (1667–1745)
  • Before this treatise can become of use, two points are necessary.
  • *
  • , title=(The Celebrity), chapter=5 , passage=We made an odd party before the arrival of the Ten, particularly when the Celebrity dropped in for lunch or dinner.}}
  • * {{quote-news, year=2011, date=November 11, author=Rory Houston, work=RTE Sport
  • , title= Estonia 0-4 Republic of Ireland , passage=Stephen Ward then had to time his tackle excellently to deny Tarmo Kink as the Wolves winger slid the ball out of play before the Estonian could attempt to beat Given.}}
  • In front of in space.
  • * (John Milton) (1608-1674)
  • His angel, who shall go / Before them in a cloud and pillar of fire.
  • *
  • He tried to persuade Cicely to stay away from the ball-room for a fourth dance.she found her mother standing up before the seat on which she had sat all the evening searching anxiously for her with her eyes, and her father by her side.
  • * {{quote-magazine, year=2013, month=September-October, author=(Henry Petroski)
  • , magazine=(American Scientist), title= The Evolution of Eyeglasses , passage=The ability of a segment of a glass sphere to magnify whatever is placed before it was known around the year 1000, when the spherical segment was called a reading stone, essentially what today we might term a frameless magnifying glass or plain glass paperweight.}}
  • Under consideration, judgment, authority of (someone).
  • * (John Ayliffe) (1676-1732)
  • If a suit be begun before an archdeacon
  • In store for, in the future of (someone).
  • * (Thomas Carlyle) (1795-1881)
  • The golden ageis before us.
  • In front of, according to a formal system of ordering items.
  • At a higher or greater position in a ranking.
  • * (Bible), (w) i. 15
  • He that cometh after me is preferred before me.
  • * (Samuel Johnson) (1709-1784)
  • The eldest son is before the younger in succession.


    * (earlier than in time) by, no later than * (in front of in space) ahead of, in front of * (in front of according to an ordering system) ahead of


    * (earlier than in time) after, later than * (in front of in space) behind * (in front of according to an ordering system) after


  • At an earlier time.
  • * , chapter=12
  • , title= The Mirror and the Lamp , passage=All this was extraordinarily distasteful to Churchill. It was ugly, gross. Never before had he felt such repulsion when the vicar displayed his characteristic bluntness or coarseness of speech. In the present connexion—or rather as a transition from the subject that started their conversation—such talk had been distressingly out of place.}}
  • In advance.
  • At the front end.
  • * 1896 , (Hilaire Belloc), The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts , :
  • When people call this beast to mind,
    They marvel more and more
    At such a (little) tail behind,
    So LARGE a trunk before .


    * (at an earlier time) previously * (in advance) ahead * (at the front end) in front


    * (at an earlier time) after * (at the front end) behind

    Derived terms

    * beforehand * beforetime


    (English Conjunctions)
  • in advance of the time when
  • (informal) rather or sooner than
  • Synonyms

    * (rather than) lest


    * Andrea Tyler and Vyvyan Evans, "Spatial particles of orientation", in The Semantics of English Prepositions: Spatial Scenes, Embodied Meaning and Cognition , Cambridge University Press, 2003, 0-521-81430 8