The English word "after" is used to indicate a state or action that occurs once an aforementioned state/action has ended. English, too, though has other words to imply either the same thing or something similar with a twist. Consider the words "once" and "afterward."
It goes without saying that if English has multiple words for the same grammatical concept, it is likely that Japanese too has multiple words for it. Furthermore, a single grammatical concept in English doesn't have to match up perfectly with a Japanese one.
Japanese actually has several grammar patterns that translate as "after." With particles and verb forms all considered, Japanese draws distinguishes in ways that aren't as apparent in an English discourse. As such, it will be important for you to pay close attention to how phrases differ and to always remember what the particles being used mean. Strong knowledge in particles will make this discussion much easier.
The dictionary translation of the word "after" in Japanese is あと. When typing this word, you'll notice that it can either be spelled as 後, 跡, or 痕. The noun itself is the same word, but each respective Kanji spelling represents a separate nuance. On top of this, the noun can either be interpreted in a physical and/or a temporal sense.
When thought of as a physical entity, it bears the meaning "mark/trace/sign." In this sense, it is spelled as 跡. As an extension, a mark on the body (scar) is represented by 痕.
Alexander the Great chased after the Persian army.
A space probe, today, discovered the remains of a riverbed on Mars.
There is a brown scar/mark left on (my/the) cheek.
There's no turning back now.
This sense of "mark" can also be interpreted as "aftermath” or the "rest" of some matter.
Leave the rest to me.
6 後（の）始末をつける。(Set Phrase)
To settle affairs.
The damage of coming out is having lingering effects on him even now, and he still seems to be depressed.
As indicated from Ex. 1, it's possible to translate the physical sense of 後 as "after" in the sense of "back." This meaning overlaps somewhat with the location word 後ろ, which uses the same Kanji. Whereas あと refers to the direction facing someone's back, うしろ may also refer to "backside" or "rear (part)." あと in this sense doesn't refer to a part, only focusing on direction.
To ride in the train car [after/to the back of] Car #8.
To ride in the train car [behind/to the [back/rear] of] Car #8.
From this sense of "after," indicating what comes next in a series is another crucial meaning of the physical sense of 後. By extension, other meanings such as "successor/descendant" are derived.
Problems are occurring one after another.
What will you be having next/after?
I vowed to follow in my father's footsteps to become a doctor.
The nation collapsed and its descendants died out.
At this point, you may be able to tell how the physical meanings of 後 bleed into a temporal interpretation--"after." 後 refers to a time after a certain point.
How about the situation after(ward)?
To regret after(ward)/later.
It seems there's going to be a mystery gift distributed after the Youtube broadcast.
When the temporal 後 is used with verbs, the sentence usually contains two clauses. In the first clause marked by 後, you have Action A, and in the second clause you have an Action/State B. Verbs that come before 後 obligatorily must be used with ～た. The similar ～ていた is not even allowed. The reason for this is because 後 is defined as a "time after a certain point." Other grammar points that translate to "after" would have to be used in its stay to be paired with the past progressive.
In Modern Japanese, there are four particles that can follow Action A, resulting in the following patterns:
Pattern I: ～た ＋ Action A ∅
Pattern II: ～た ＋ Action Aに
Pattern III: ～た ＋ Action Aから
Pattern IV: ～た ＋ Action で
Pattern I: ～た ＋ Action A ∅
The most common particle to follow あと is no particle at all. In this situation, Action B happens 'after' Action A, but any other information such as how far afterward it occurred in relation to Action A is not inferred. If one were to stress that Action B happened afterward, you may find particles like は or も following あと, but the sentence would still be indicative of Pattern I.
Yesterday I went to go see a movie instead of going home after class.
漢字 Note: 観 can be used instead of 見 when one is watching a program of some sort such as a movie, a TV show, play, drama, Family Guy (I love this show), etc.
I felt dizzy all of a sudden after school.
After being in Greece for a while, I crossed over to Turkey.
I wonder if there can be anything good after things being so terrible.
Since moving out of the prefecture, chances to meet friends have decreased.
Word Note: 友人 is more frequently used in the written language.
I feel better after having listened to K-pop.
Pronunciation Note: Pronounce K as ケイ.
I go right to sleep after I brush my teeth.
Karaoke after working and or studying!
After studying, I'm tired and can't do anything.
Sentence Note: Ex. 24 is not plausible to some speakers as being unable to do anything due to studying is a horrible excuse. Furthermore, given that Action A should represent the end of an action, it isn't as if Action A had occurred over a long period of time. Unless the speaker is purposely exaggerating, Ex. 24 would be hard to believe, which is why it gets the 〇～X rating.
Even after (being victim of) the torrential rain, (they) restored and are continuing to operate.
Grammar Note: Ex. 25 indicates how the particle の can be used in lieu of the verb that would otherwise be stated in Action A. This applies to all patterns as の behaves the same way as the 連体形 of a verb.
Pattern II: ～た ＋ Action Aに
Pattern II relates to absolute time due to the presence of the particle に. In this scenario, Action A ends and what is left is the immediate act of Action B or a resultant State B. In the latter sense, the physical nuance of 後 can be felt. Whether verb B happens to be an action or a state will depend on what is being said and for what purpose. Transitivity plays a crucial role here as transitive verbs will imply willful action whereas intransitive verbs will likely involve actions or states that would immediately follow.
I brushed my teeth (right) after I ate.
There was a lot of trash dropped after my friends went home.
Nuance Note: The physical sense of 後 can also be strongly felt in this example.
After a flower blooms, a fruit forms, and inside that seeds form.
After graduating, I'll look for a job.
I watched a movie after my child went to bed.
We went sightseeing in the town after lunch.
It's also possible to see ～後には and ～後にも. The meanings of the individual particles do not behave any differently. If you wish to emphasize that Action/State B occurs right after Action A, you use ～後にも. If you wish to emphasize that Action B/State B occurs right after Action A, then you use ～後には.
After a storm comes a calm.
I have my part-time job even after then.
Pattern III: ～た ＋ Action Aから
Pattern III indicates that though Action A has ended, an unexpected Situation B occurs. The particle から indicates the emerging of the situation that follows.
My pain is strong after having surgery.
And once the children have gone home, the round, big moon comes out!
From the lyrics of 夕焼け小焼け.
Pattern IV: ～た ＋ Action Aで
Pattern IV, unlike the previous patterns, has a more peculiar definition. Upon "Action A ending, the agent goes on to do Action B." This is indicative of the relative time definition of the particle で. Take, for example,
Let's talk afterward once this investigation is over.
Consider what the temporal dynamic of で implies. Action B is a situation that will occur once Action A ends, but the talk (Action B) might not be something that ought to be dealt with immediately afterward. Perhaps there is a bias both individuals are trying to avoid interfering in the investigation and the talk just has to happen in the future. Setup like this is key for で to be natural. Otherwise, it will sound like an unnatural sentence without explanation.
At any rate, Action A must be completely done with. If the action isn't truly over, the sentence will be ungrammatical. Consider the following.
A train station was built where a department store had been.
Ex. 37a is ungrammatical because ある is existential, and the particle に indicates both location of existence and absolute time, both things that で does not. One could also say that the department store is still an intrinsic quality of that location. Existence is more enduring, even after passing. It is this requirement that makes ～あとで less common than the other patterns.
”It's after the fall of the empire, and the once beautiful castles remain in ruin." Just as is the case in English, it is possible for temporal 後 to be used purely as a noun at the end of a sentence or clause. For instance, say the speaker expanded upon Ex. 18 by using the て-form of だ which happens to be で, it would still be a separate phenomenon from Pattern IV above.
We'll know the results after the investigation.
～後に also means "later". This attaches to Sino-Japanese words involving time. It is sometimes formal, but there are also instances in which it is quite normal like when it is paired with 週間. Instances where it is clearly formal, however, are those in which it would otherwise be replaced by あと. For instance, その後 means "afterward," but in literal or formal writing it is usually read as そのご rather than its colloquial reading そのあと.
Prime Minister Hatoyama will arrive in Narita Airport in 3 hours.
Person Note: Yukio Hatoyama (鳩山由紀夫) was the Prime Minister of Japan from 2009 to 2010.
I'll return in two weeks.
To take medicine after a meal.
Sentence Note: Ex. 22 would be most expected of a doctor to say or write.
Women who take off their make-up after arriving home
Word Note: 帰宅後 ＝ 家に帰った後
後 may also be read as のち. This word has a separate etymology than あと, so it does not share the same physical nuances of "mark/trace," but it does often get used in the sense of "the future," "after death," etc. in the same way as あと but in a more sophisticated manner. No particle typically follows, but if there is it is the particle に when used at the end of a dependent clause. Otherwise, you may see it paired with の when used as an attribute in phrases such as のちの世 (future life).
If one were to define the exact nuance of ～たのち（に）・～てのち（に） as opposed to its ～あと counterparts, it would be that Action B simply occurs sometime after Action A has ended.
I knew of that long afterwards.
44. 三ヶ月 後 に離脱。
Defecting after three months.
After graduating, I entered the world of theatre.
Fine, cloudy later
Sentence Note: Ex. 46 is an example of common messages you might find watching a Japanese weather report.
～てから shows what you do after something else. This goes in hand when showing the starting point of something. In this case, it's the starting point of the new action after the previous one. So, once the first action is established, then that sets up the starting point for the next action. This pattern is very good for showing sequence.
The time before I go to bed after eating dinner is too long.
I haven't met her since we split up.
I've learned a lot of things since I started studying.
I will answer after some thought.
It has already been ten years since I came to Japan.
I've been studying Japanese ever since I came to Japan.
There are also a lot of people that work instead of going to college after graduating high school.
Phrase Note: 入学する = "to be admitted", which can also be used in reference to middle and high school in Japan. So, using this instead of 大学に行く may not be a smart idea if you don't have the context. Now, 大学に入学する would still mean "to be admitted into college", but it doesn't describe going to four years of college like the above sentence does.
I was scared from when I entered until I left.
Particle Note: Other particles like は and の can follow ～てから. You can even see だ after it.
Tense Note: You should not use this pattern with ～ている．So, ～ていてから X.
～後 VS ～てから
There are many instances where using ～後 can be unnatural or even ungrammatical. At other times, they're interchangeable. However, interchangeability is not the same as being synonymous. They still mean their separate meanings; it's just a matter of whether each other's nuance makes grammatical sense with the clauses provided.
I watched a movie after shopping.
56. 切符を買っ｛てから 〇・た後に 〇・た後で △｝ポケットの中に入れた。
After I bought the ticket, I put it inside my pocket.
Grammar Note: 後で is unnatural because Action B happens right after Action A as a consequence of it. The same problem exists for Ex. 38.
57. ちょっと口をすすい｛でから 〇 ・た後に 〇・だ後で △｝歯を磨く。
To brush one's teeth after rinsing one's mouth a little.
漢字 Note: すすぐ may rarely be written as 漱ぐ in this context.
58. 卒業し｛てから 〇・た後 X｝、彼には会っていない。
I haven't met with him since graduating.
Grammar Note: You should never use ない as the latter condition (state/action B) with 後で. So, in the sense of "since", you should use ～てから.
59. 秋が来てから 、急に人通りが少なくなった。
Street traffic suddenly got deserted since fall came.