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According to this grammar page, it appears like 之後 can always replace 以後, whereas 以後 cannot always replace 之後. However, these grammar pages are not always reliable.

1) For simplicity, is it safe to always use 之後 instead of 以後?

2) Is the same true of 之前 and 以前?

https://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/Comparing_%22yihou%22_and_%22zhihou%22

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  • @user6065 thanks for those links! – Crashalot Sep 10 '18 at 1:20
  • The article from this question has this passage: Not only can it (之後) happen in the same place, modifying the time, but it can also appear just on its own, meaning something along the lines of "then." While 以后 is dependent on the time, 之后 can stand by itself. Yet one of the answers from your comment says this: 之后 means after that (something said earlier) which requires a context as the reference point of time. These seem to contradict each other. Which is right? – Crashalot Sep 10 '18 at 1:27
  • see below "[不同]1。"(之后 cannot stand at the beginning of a sentence)"实用汉语近义虚词词典"以后(名)/之后(名)/后(名)[相同] 都是方位名词,可以用在词语后边;表示比某个时间晚的时间。经常可以互换:(1)演出结束以后,校长走上舞台和演员门握手。(后✓之后✓)(2)小明,起床以后赶紧洗脸刷牙吃早饭。(后✓之后✓)(3)这次实习两个月后才能结束。(以后✓之后✓)(4)毕业后我一直在北京工作,去年才来到广州。(以后✓之后✓)(5)从此之后,我和她再也没有什么关系了。(后✓以后✓)(6)"长江号"货船将于三天之后出发。(后✓以后✓)[不同]1。"以后、之后"都可以用在后一分句的开头;"以后"还可以用在单句的开头或主语后;"之后"不能。"后"必须用在词语的后面,不能单独使用;(1)她开学的那天来过一次,以后就在也没有来过。(之后✓后✗)(2)三年前我们见过一次面,以后,就再也没有见过。(之后✓后✗)(3)我那天中午就走了,以后的情况我就不知道了。(之后✓后✗) (4)以后,你再不要来找我了。(后✗之后✗)(5)你以后再不要来找我了。(后✗之后✗)(6)以后,你有什么打算?(后✗之后✗)(7)你以后有什么打算?(后✗之后✗) – user6065 Sep 10 '18 at 3:08
  • 2。"后"可以用在一些单音节词后边,表示时间;"以后、之后"只用在双音节词后边。3。"后、之后"可以用在名词后边,表示和"前"相对的空间、处所,"但"后"多和单音节名词组合,"之后"多和双音节词组合。"以后"不能表示空间处所。4。"后"可以用在"向、朝、往、从、由"等介词后面,表示空间;"以后、之后"无此用法。With 以前、之前 the situation is somewhat different,excerpt from 以前/之前/前[不同]2。表示时间时,"以前"、"之前"可以单独作句子成分,但多用"以前","之前"用得少;"前"必须用在其它词语后:(1)以前我不喜欢吃辣椒,现在可喜欢了。(之前✓前✗)(2)以前的事就别再提了!(之前✓前✗)(3)现在这个地方跟以前大不一样了。(之前✓前✗) – user6065 Sep 10 '18 at 3:12
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In the three example sentences of 以后 in your link, 以后 cannot be replaced by 之后. (1)以后 再 也 不 来 这里 吃饭 了 , 又 贵 又 难吃 。 (2)以后 我 可能 会 去 国外 上 大学 。 (3)以后 的 事情 以后 再 说 吧 。

(Actually you can use 之后 in (2), but need a context before that. E.g. 我打算高中毕业之后去北京工作两年;之后我可能会去国外上大学。)

Similarly 之前 and 以前 cannot always replace each other.

  • Other than what @user12075 said, note that 之后 can also be "the descendant of" e.g. 名门之后 中山靖王之后(手动斜眼) – Toosky Hierot Sep 10 '18 at 4:17
  • Could you share what are the rules for when you can use 之后? For instance, why does it fail for #1 but not #2? – Crashalot Nov 20 '18 at 4:44
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“之前”:It is a concept with a timeliness or a concept of ordering according to a rule. 1.时间性意义下的“之前”表示在某个时刻的前面。 2.某规则排列次序性意义下的“之前”是指按照该排列规则确定的在某事物的前面。 “以前”:It refers to a period earlier than at present or at a certain time. “之后”:At the end of a time or place. General multi fingered time。 “以后”:Refers to a time that is later than it is now or some time.

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