Pin Me

Expressing the Many Meanings of After

written by: Eric W. Vogt • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 2/8/2012

The word "after" in English can convey the concept of time or space (to run "after" someone). It's important to know which sense of the word you mean in order to make the right choice in Spanish -- and you may need to use the subjunctive.

  • slide 1 of 1

    Just What Do You Mean By "After"?

    Meaning what you say depends on knowing what you mean... Knowing what you mean will help you as you make the right choices of words and grammar structures in Spanish. The word after can call for a few different solutions in Spanish, depending on whether it is used prepositionally or if it is followed by a conjunction (que) or if it is adverbial. Let's take a look:

    Prepositional uses that correspond to the English word after:

    When there is only one subject who performs more than one action, the phrase después de is followed by an infinitive. Notice that in English, when a verb follows a preposition, it is always in the -ing form; in Spanish, when a verb directly follows a preposition, it is always, always in the infinitive:

    Después de dormir, mi hermano decidió ir a nadar (After sleeping, my brother decided to go for a swim).

    Después de salir a la calle, me di cuenta de que había dejado la puerta abierta (After going out, I realized I had left the door ajar).

    Another prepositional word meaning after is tras. When it is used in a temporal sense, it indicates an event that is either sequential or that happens in a series. When this preposition is spacial, it indicates the idea of right behind, or on the trail of... and so forth:

    Año tras año, el río sigue inundando el valle (Year after year, the river keeps flooding the valley).

    Los perros corrieron tras el conejo (The dogs ran after the rabbit).

    If there are two subjects involved, one in the first or main clause, and one in the clause following after (the subordinated clause), then the conjunction que must be used following de to link them. If the main verb is present tense, the verb in the subordinate clause (following después de que) will be in the present subjunctive, because there is a notion of anticipation. On the other hand, if the main verb is in a past tense, the verb in the subordinate clause will be in an indicative past tense, because it merely reports a past event:

    Vamos al parque después de que venga mi hermano (Let's go to the park after my brother arrives).

    Fuimos al parque después de que vino mi hermano (We went to the park after my brother arrived).

    Finally, after may be adverbial. It is often contrasted with some notion of sequential action, such as first.. and then... In these cases, después means afterwards:

    Nadamos y después dormimos (We swam and afterwards, we slept).


  • Author's more than 20 years experience teaching and translating Spanish.

Spanish Usage

The articles in this series deal with various questions about the right choice of word or phrase when English may have one or two structures but Spanish has more. They often deal with prepositional issues.
  1. Spanish Usage Questions: "Above"
  2. Using "Actual" and "Actually" in Spanish
  3. A Problem Preposition: The Ways "About" is Expressed in Spanish
  4. The Many Spanish Faces of the English Verb "to Agree"
  5. Spanish Usage Questions: Ways to say "Again"
  6. Expressing the Many Meanings of After
  7. Spanish Usage Questions: How to Say "Ahead"
  8. Spanish Usage Questions: "Anyone" and "Anybody"
  9. Using "Anyway..." in Spanish
  10. Let's Learn About How to Talk About Appointments & Dating
  11. What Do You Use for "Around" in Spanish
  12. The Spanish Verbs Meaning "to Ask" are Many!
  13. Beware of False Cognates! How to Express "Attend," "Assist," and "Help"
  14. Are You "Cool" or "Cold"? Explore the Nuances in Spanish
  15. The Difference Between "Why" and "Because" in Spanish
  16. The Temporal and Spacial Meanings of "Before": How to Get it Right in Spanish
  17. Don't Be Left in the Dust! Learn to Express the Meanings of "Behind" in Spanish
  18. Get the Low Down on the Preposition "Below" and Say it Right in Spanish!
  19. Understand Saying "Help" in Spanish
  20. Translating "Beside" & "Besides" into Spanish: Interesting Solutions!
  21. Not all Meanings of "But" Are Equal!
  22. Expressing the Various Meanings of the Preposition "By" in Spanish
  23. What Can the English Word "Can" Mean and How to Get it Right in Spanish
  24. Spanish Usage Questions: "Corner"
  25. The Word "Country" in Spanish
  26. The Various Meanings of "Outweigh" in English and How to Express Them in Spanish
  27. Expressing the Idea of "Ownership" in Spanish
  28. How to Express "Time & Distance" in Spanish
  29. Treat, Try, Attempt, Deal with... In Spanish, You Probably Need "Tratar"
  30. Spanish Usage Questions: "Having Fun"
  31. Even a Word Like "Even" Has Many Counterparts in Spanish
  32. Don't Go Wrong When You Look for Ways to Express "to fail"
  33. Do You Mean "Fair" Weather, a "Fair" Game or a "Fair" Complexion? Learn How to Say Them in Spanish!
  34. Love, Desire and Wanting -- Spanish Style!
  35. Discover the Right Spanish Verbs for Taking, Holding, Grabbing... and More
  36. You Have Nothing to Fear Except Not Knowing How to Say "Fear" in Spanish!
  37. Spanish Equivalents of the Common English Word "Find"
  38. Discover the Various Meanings of "Middle" and How to Say Them in Spanish
  39. Not All Spanish Words Meaning "Worker" Are Created Equal