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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

1 Answer 1

  1. 之后 means after that (something said earlier) which requires a context as the base point of the time. 以后 can be used either with a context or without. When used without a context, 以后 means from now on, in future.

  2. 之后 refers to a shorter time period while 以后 refers to a longer one. The difference is like a weaker version of after vs. since. Due to this, in imperative sentences you 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 spoken language they are pretty interchangeable as the difference in #1 and #2 becomes trivial. (之后 can also be used without a context and means from now on etc). In writing they should be used with precision.

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