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I saw a girl at a coffee shop and I thought she was beautiful.

  1. And a couple of weeks later, I saw her drinking at a bar.

  2. And a couple of weeks after I'd seen her on that day, I saw her drinking at a bar.

I feel later is the same thing as after s + v, so they are technically interchangeable. Am I right to think this way?

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    Yes, but only if it has been mentioned earlier that you had seen her on that day. On its own, the first sentence does not make much sense, you need something that was previously mentioned for later to refer to. – Sander Aug 3 '15 at 13:55
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    Sure. And you can use after the same way: "And a couple weeks after I saw her drinking ...", although you should avoid this in writing: not because it's ungrammatical but because it leads the reader to parse what follows as the object of the prepositon. You can put a comma in to make the syntax clearer: "And a couple of weeks after, I saw her drinking ..." – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 3 '15 at 16:57
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    A couple of weeks after that day is fine too. – Damkerng T. Aug 3 '15 at 21:13
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They are interchangeable. The difference between them is only a stylistic one. In writing, I would use the first sentence if it came right after the event where you saw her for the first time.

I saw a girl at a coffee shop and I thought she was beautiful. And a couple of weeks later, I saw her drinking at a bar.

But if there were more sentences in between, I would use your second sentence to make it clear that I was referring back to the event at the coffee shop.

I saw a girl at a coffee shop and I thought she was beautiful. I was drinking a double espresso because I was very tired from the night before, and I had to leave for a business trip that morning. So it was quite some time before I thought about the girl again. But a couple of weeks after I'd seen her on that day, I saw her drinking at a bar.

Something like that. The specificity of "after I'd seen her on that day" gives you the ability to refer back to an event you've already moved away from. Otherwise it's not really necessary and "later" is much more concise.

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In most cases, you can use either, but normally "after" requires more detail about the time related to when you are talking about. Also "after" is more likely to be used for specifying the time directly followed by the time that is referenced.

"later" is less accurate, and assumes that it is just som time that is after now (or in context can be after a time that has been talked about in the previous stage of the conversation, or later within a given time frame).

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