My question hails from this question here on ELL.

I'd like to know the nuance of the noun 'afternoon' and the phrase 'after noon'. How do we say (in speech) and clearly distinguish their usage?

I'm not here after noon
I'm not here after the noon
I'm not here afternoon

The second seems correct but the first does not look bad. Also, do we need to give a big pause to differentiate the first and third sentence in speech?

  • You really should provide contexts for all three of your examples,. Your 2nd and 3rd examples sound weird and do not seem to be grammatical in today's standard English. Your 1st example also sounds weird and also seems ungrammatical, but it might be possible for it to be acceptable in a specific context: can you provide that context? – F.E. Oct 29 '14 at 18:42
  • @F.E. The context is mentioned in very first sentence. I'm talking about my presence in the office. – Maulik V Oct 30 '14 at 4:54

The confusion comes from the fact that 'after noon' and 'afternoon', while looking looking similar, do not refer to exactly the same thing.

For example, 11PM is technically 'after noon' - noon has passed. But it isn't within the time period considered to be 'afternoon' (generally ~12:00PM-5:00PM).

I'm not here after noon

That states that you won't be around once the indicated time has passed. Not in the evening, or at night.

I'm not here after the noon

After 'the' noon sounds odd, because there is only one noon every day - no need to specify which noon we're talking about.

I'm not here afternoon

This doesn't make any sense. You should say "I'm not here in the afternoon", because you're talking about something within a designated time period. Depending on the schedule you keep, this leaves the option open for you to be here in the evening or at night.

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"I'm not here after noon." Here 'noon' is synonymous with midday "After noon" is not commonly used. We prefer to say "in the afternoon", as this ngram shows.

These are not natural English: "I'm not here after the noon" / "I'm not here afternoon"

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  • In the afternoon and afternoon could be used in an entirely different way what ngram might be showing. Here the question is about referring to my presence after the noon has passed. I'm not here in the afternoon somehow seems ambiguous. – Maulik V Oct 29 '14 at 7:03
  • @MaulikV "I'm not here in the afternoon" is the least ambiguous option. "I'm not here after noon" is fine, but ambiguous, you would need to have a noticable pause between after and noon for the person you are telling to understand. – Matt Ellen Oct 29 '14 at 8:44

"I am not here after the noon." does not sound natural, but "I am not here after the noon meal." is acceptable. I would expect someone to say "I am not here after lunch.", but "the noon meal" is a reasonable synonym for "lunch".

As Damien explains, "after noon" means any time after "noon"; "afternoon" means the time between "noon" and "evening".

"After noon"'s grammatical role is based on "after", whereas "afternoon" is a noun like "day", "night", or "morning".

The following options sound natural to my (American) ear:

I am not here after noon.

I am not here in the afternoon.

I won't be here this afternoon.

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