What is the difference between 以后(yǐ hòu) and 后来(hòu lái)

Posted by Lilian Li on June 8, 2017

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In Chinese learning, you will encounter a lot of similar words, and these words seem easily for Chinese people to understand without specific explanation. However, it is difficult for foreigners, they do not know how to distinguish them in specific circumstances.

The following are the differences between 以后 (yǐ hòu) and 后来(hòu lái).

“以后 (yǐ hòu)” means now or the time after now. 后来(hòu lái) refers to the time after a certain time in the past.

Eg.
yǐ hòu,nǐ jiù shì wǒ de xué shēng le
以后,你就是我的学生了。
(Now, you are my student.)

hòu lái tā men dōu qù xué hàn yǔ le
后来他们都去学汉语了。
(Later they went to learn Chinese)

The best way to distinguish them is to learn the grammar.

1. 以后(yǐ hòu) and后来(hòu lái) can be used as a noun. 以后(yǐ hòu) can refer to the past, but also can refer to the future. However,后来(hòu lái) Only refers to the past.

Eg.

√ shàng xué yǐ hòu ,tā zài yě méi huí guò nà lǐ. (past)
上学以后,他再也没回过那里。
(After school, he never returned there.)

√ wǒ hái bú zhī dào yǐ hòu qù nǎ gè xué xiào xué xí(future)
我还不知道以后去哪个学校学习。
(I don't know which school I will go to later)

√ hòu lái ,lǎo shī hé tā yī qǐ zhǎo dào le shū(past)
后来,老师和他一起找到了书。
(Later, the teacher found the book with him)

× míng tiān tā lái le hòu lái ,wǒ men qù yóu yǒng ba(future)
明天他来了后来,我们去游泳吧?
(Let's go swimming after He comes tomorrow.)

2. 以后 can be used alone, but also can be a post-component ;后来can only be used alone.

1). N.+以后 (Nouns include quantifiers that represent time)

Eg.

√ bàn gè xiǎo shí yǐ hòu ,wǒ men zài mén kǒu jiàn 。
半个小时以后,我们在门口见。
(In half an hour, we'll meet at the gate.)

√ zhōng qiū jiē yǐ hòu,kāi shǐ jiàng wēn
中秋节以后,开始降温。
(After mid autumn festival, begin to cool down.)

× liù gè yuè hòu lái ,tā qù le měi guó dú shū
六个月后来,他去了美国读书。
(Six months later, he went to study in the United States.)

× 1995 hòu lái ,lǐ lǎo shī lí kāi le jiā xiāng
1995 后来,李老师离开了家乡。
(After 1995, Li left his hometown.)

2). V.+以后

Eg.

√ lí kāi jiāo shì yǐ hòu yào guān dēng
离开教室以后要关灯。
(Turn off the lights when you leave the classroom.)

√ chī wán fàn yǐ hòu zài kàn diàn shì
吃完饭以后再看电视。
(Watch TV after dinner.)

× yùn dòng hòu lái bú yào mǎ shàng xǐ zǎo
运动后来不要马上洗澡。
(Do not take a bath immediately after exercise.)

× lǎo shī shuō wán hòu lái dà jiā dōu xiào le
老师说完后来大家都笑了。
(When the teacher finished, everyone laughed.)

3). 很久+以后(hěn jiǔ +yǐ hòu)(Refers to the time late than the present time or much late than a certain time)

Eg.

√ hěn jiǔ yǐ hòu ,wǒ men zài měi guó yòu jiàn le yī cì
很久以后,我们在美国又见了一次。
(After a long time, we met again in the United States.)

√ chī wán fàn hěn jiǔ yǐ hòu ,mā mā cái huí jiā
吃完饭很久以后,妈妈才回家。
(After dinner for a long time, my mother went home)

× lái zhōng guó hěn jiǔ hòu lái ,tā cái xué huì shuō hàn yǔ
来中国很久后来,他才学会说汉语。
(Came to China for a long time later, he learned to speak Chinese)

× hěn jiǔ hòu lái ,shǒu biǎo yě méi zhǎo dào
很久后来,手表也没找到。
(A long time later, the watch was not found.)

4). 不久+以后(bú jiǔ +yǐ hòu)( Refers to the time that not so late then the present or a certain time)

Eg.

√ fàng xué bú jiǔ yǐ hòu ,lǎo shī lái dào le tā jiā
放学不久以后,老师来到了他家。
(Shortly after school, the teacher came to his house.)

√ huí fǎ guó bú jiǔ yǐ hòu ,tā gěi wǒ fā le yī fēng yóu jiàn
回法国不久以后,他给我发了一封邮件。
(Not long after returning to France, he sent me an e-mail.)

× bú jiǔ hòu lái ,tā cóng xué xiào bì yè le
不久后来,她从学校毕业了。
(Soon after, she graduated from school.)

× chī wán fàn bú jiǔ hòu lái ,tā zuò wán le zuò yè
吃完饭不久后来,他做完了作业。
(After dinner, he finished his homework.)

5). There are some Idioms only can use 以后 yǐ hòu

从此以后 and 从今以后 (cóng cǐ yǐ hòu and cóng jīn yǐ hòu)。 从此以后(cóng cǐ yǐ hòu)refers to the time after the time mentioned above. 从今以后(cóng jīn yǐ hòu )refers to the time after present time.

Eg.

√ cóng cǐ yǐ hòu,tā zài méi huí guò zhōng guó
从此以后,他再没回过中国。
(Since then, he never returned to China.)

√ cóng jīn yǐ hòu,wǒ men bú zài shì péng yǒu
从今以后,我们不再是朋友。
(From now on, we are no longer friends.)

Can you distinguish them now? Here we have some excise for you, don’t be hesitate to try!

1. Choose the correct word to fill the blank.

A. 以后(yǐ hòu) B. 后来(hòu lái)

1) _____,tā men cān jiā le 2008 nián běi jīng ào yùn huì

_____,他们参加了2008年北京奥运会。

2) _____, wǒ men yī qǐ shàng kè ba

_____, 我们一起上课吧。

3) kàn wán diàn yǐng ______, tā hé qī zǐ zǒu lù huí jiā le

看完电影______, 他和妻子走路回家了。

4). cóng cǐ _______, wǒ men zài yě méi yǒu jiàn guò

从此_______, 我们再也没有见过。

5). bú jiǔ _______, xué xiào bān dào le shì zhōng xīn

不久_______, 学校搬到了市中心。

2. true or false

1). cóng xué xiào bì yè yǐ hòu ,tā zài shàng hǎi zhǎo le gōng zuò

从学校毕业以后,他在上海找了工作。

2). yǐ hòu ,mā mā gěi wǒ mǎi le xīn shǒu jī

以后,妈妈给我买了新手机。

3). xià bān hòu lái ,qǐng gěi wǒ dǎ diàn huà

下班后来,请给我打电话。

4). cóng jīn hòu lái ,wǒ men jiù zhù zhè lǐ

从今后来,我们就住这里。

5). děng yī xià zài shuō ba 。shí fèn zhōng yǐ hòu ,wǒ men yào kāi huì

等一下再说吧。十分钟以后,我们要开会。

Now I bet you know the difference between 以后 and 后来. If you want to learn more about HSK vocabulary distinguish, you can visit this video channel to watch our HSK grammar video. And if you have any question, welcome to visit here to book a free trial class and let our Chinese teachers right now!

Answer:

1: B A A A A

2:√ × × × √

About The Author

Lilian Li

Lilian Li has a master's degree in linguistics and didactics from Rennes University in France. An expert in linguistics and educational psychology, she has taught Chinese as a foreign language for several years, primarily in France.

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