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Today John Pasden linked to an old Sinosplice post in which he discussed how Chinese grammatical categories cannot be mapped neatly onto those of Indo-European languages.

http://www.sinosplice.com/life/archives/2006/03/20/chinese-parts-of-speech

Near the end there is a neat chart that illustrates how simple “nouns of locality” combine to form compounds. My Zhongwen Popup Chinese Dictionary plugin for Chrome gives me essentially the same translation for 以后 and 之后, but I have seen them in different environments and don't think they're completely interchangeable. What is the difference in usage between 以后 and 之后?

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some off topic: I'm a native speaker. I think the 2nd sentence "车停在外面。" means "The car is parked outside.". If you want to express "Park the car outside.", as an imperative sentence, I think it should be "把车停在外面。". – Silvia Jun 30 '12 at 17:59
    
@Silvia It seems to me that that switching 停 and 车 would also create an imperative: 停车在外面。 – callyalater Mar 24 at 17:00
    
Oh Master Silvia was once here XD – Stan Mar 25 at 11:01
  1. 之后 means after that (something said earlier) which requires a context as the reference point of time. 以后 can be used with or without context. When standalone, 以后 means from now on, in future.

  2. In general, 之后 refers to a shorter time period than 以后. The difference is akin to that between after vs. since but weaker. In imperative sentences you may want to use 以后.

  3. 之后 can also mean geographically behind though this usage is not common. 以后 cannot be used in that way. Example: 围墙之后是一排小树。

  4. In colloquial language they are pretty much interchangeable. People don't pay much attention to the differences in #1 and #2. In other word, 之后 can also be used without a context and means from now on, etc. In writing and formal speech, however, they should be used with precision.

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artilce 3. can be justified (之后 for location relations) cause 之 is a ancient depiction of a foot. So 之后 can be "treated" as "position after someones foot" – coobit Mar 23 at 16:33

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