enter image description hereHow do I teach my students the difference between ‘after’ and ‘next’?

The real using of each of them.

1. in the time following (an event or another period of time).

1. (of a time) coming immediately after the time of writing or speaking.

For example,

  1. After Monday I'm going back to school.
  2. Next Monday I'm going back to school.


  1. I'm going back to school after.
  2. I'm going back to school next.

If all four sentences are correct, does this mean next and after are interchangeable? What exceptions are there?

  • 1
    Can you be more specific about the problems they're having? What are some example sentences they get wrong? Mar 1, 2016 at 1:59
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    I'm confused... you can say "Guess what I did after that?"... and it means the same thing as "Guess what I did next?"
    – Catija
    Mar 1, 2016 at 2:30
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    Why do you think that "Guess what I did after that?" is incorrect?
    – Catija
    Mar 1, 2016 at 3:30
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    It's after that; "that" could be breakfast or any noun e.g. a movie You don't normally say "I went out after" or "After we took the bus home" But "I went out after breakfast". "After the movie we took the bus home"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 1, 2016 at 8:59
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    BTW - The explanation in the screenshot you posted is poor. We do use "after" in sequences all the time.
    – Adam
    Mar 2, 2016 at 0:19

2 Answers 2


After and Next are not interchangeable.

Your examples:

  1. "After Monday, I'm going back to school."
  2. "Next Monday, I'm going back to school."

"After" in this sentence implies that you are not going to school Monday, but you will later. Using "next" here means you're going to go to school when Monday occurs.

  1. "I'm going back to school after"
  2. "I'm going back to school next"

The first example here is grammatically wrong. It's not a complete sentence. "After" is a preposition, and prepositions need to be followed by a noun, unless it's implied. The response to "I'm going back to school after" would be "After what?".

Next would be correct here. This sentence is implying the next action to be completed is going back to school.

  • 1
    +1 "I'm going back to school next. could also refer to sequencing of students. "My family is so poor, my three siblings and I all had to drop out of school to help at home. Daddy got a new job though, and my sisters have been going to school for the last month. I am going back to school next. Roger was never all that good at studying anyways, so he might not return."
    – Adam
    Mar 1, 2016 at 23:05
  • "After" is also more likely to be used when the exact time of the future triggering event is potentially unknown but definitely singular. "After Monday" is somewhat awkward, because there are many Mondays; "after the baby is born" or "after I get a new car" are more common.
    – T.J.L.
    Mar 3, 2016 at 15:22

Both the words next and after have similar meaning, but their usage is different. next means immediately following something but after can mean any time afterward without caring about the order.

Both next and after are preposition. Whereas next is an intransitive preposition, after is transitive except in cases where it has an implied elliptical complement. next can also be an adjective.

After lunch we left for a movie. [Preposition after takes a complement lunch]

Look that is the thief running, and the police chasing after. [Here the preposition after doesn't have a complement, but it has an implied elliptical complement like this *...and the police chasing after him (the thief)]

But we the preposition next is an intransitive, that is it doesn't allow any complement.

  • We left for a movie next lunch. [INCORRECT]

What are planning to do next? [CORRECT]

In constructions like next day, next Monday it's an adjective. It's actually an NP that can act like an adverbial. Lerson called it bare NP adverbial.

We will be back to school next Monday.

We will be back to school after Monday.

Though the sentences above syntactically look similar they mean different. While the one with after means that we can be back to school any day that comes Monday. But the last sentence says that we will be back to school on Monday that comes next.

Hope this helps. I wish I could reword the last paragraph, but I can't think of any other way to write it right now.

  • The reason to consider next as a preposition, not an adverb:

    1. After copular is it's incorrect to place an adverb, but a preposition can comfortably occur there.

He is in the middle of a task.
He is in.
He is subsequently [INCORRECT]

But we can write the following -

Our performance is next.

  1. There are certain adverbs (e.g right, straight) that can only modify a preposition.

Stand right next to me.

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    Next and after do not have the same meaning. Next means immediately following, after just means subsequently. Elsa took her turn and I went next. Nica's turn was next after mine. Both Nica and I took our turns after Elsa.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 2, 2016 at 19:34
  • The use of "next" as a standalone preposition without "to" beside it is extremely archaic, transitive, and doesn't match your examples. In a sentence like "I will answer next", it is an adverb modifying answer. In modern usage it is only a preposition as part of "next to," in which case it is transitive: "The dog is next to the cat."
    – Adam
    Mar 2, 2016 at 23:24

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