We already know one way of saying “after” in Japanese: by using the te form.
|I drank coffee and then started work.|
If we want to emphasis that A happened after B then we can add から to the te form of the first clause.
|After I drank coffee I started work.|
We can also use the following structure.
【Prior Action】後【で or に】【Subsequent Action】
The verb in the prior action must be in the standard simple past tense. This gives rise to the same “issue” we saw when using “before”; namely, that the tense of the first clause is not dependent on the time of the action. This means need to form sentences with literal translations like, “After I drank tea I will phone my friend” to get the correct grammar in Japanese.
|After I drink tea I will phone my friend.|
|After the examination finished the candidates left the room at the same time.|
To be clear, the following is incorrect.
We use the possessive particle to connection 後 to nouns.
|I came back home and slept straight after the drinks.|
後で vs 〜 後に
This is actually quite a frustrating one to explain because in the many cases both are natural. Used on its own to mean “later” 後で is typically used.
|I’ll call you later.|
Generally speaking, で is used to signify the simple chronology of events. に is used to emphasis that the succeeding clause is a natural result consequence of the preceding.
|After I’ve eaten I will call my friend.|
|After rain fell the weather cleared.|
後で vs 〜てから
1: Order, i.e. that B must happen after A.
|Book the hotel after you’ve confirmed the itinerary.|
Clearly the fact that you will book the hotel after checking the itinerary is not a coincidence; order is important and so ～てから is the more natural sentence.
2: Intention of the prior action.
|Apologise after an argument.|
The first sentence suggests that you intended to have the argument and then apologise; whereas the second is more natural because it simply states that the apology happened after the argument without insinuating any prior intention (with is presumably the case).
3: Continuity of the final action.
|Since we got married we’ve always been living in Tokyo.|