Archive for November 1, 2010

the difference between words: later and soon


Sometimes my students get confused about when to use “later” and when to use “soon”. This is especially confusing for them with the expressions, “See you later.” and “See you soon.” So I’d like to go over this in my blog today.

The word “later” is used to talk about a future time, but we don’t know exactly when in the future it will be. However, when we say “later”, it sounds like it will not be in the immediate future. The word “soon”, on the other hand, is used when something will happen in the immediate future, and usually the person has a general idea of when it will happen. For example:

A: I had a really nice time with you tonight. Let’s go out again sometime.

B: Ok. I’ll see you later. Bye.


A: We’re going to take a ten minute break now, and then we can finish talking about the project.

B: Ok, see you soon.

I don’t have time to write the report now, but I’ll do it later. I have lots of time because the deadline isn’t until next month.

I don’t have time to write the report now, but I’ll do it soon. The deadline is this Friday.

So, in the first example, the person says “See you later.” because they don’t know exactly when they will see the other person. The expression, “See you later.” is a friendly, casual way to say goodbye to someone. In the second example, the person says “See you soon.” because they know they will see the other person after a short time has gone by – in this case, after ten minutes.

In the third example, the person uses “later” because they don’t know exactly when they will write the report, but they know they have a fairly long period of time in which to do it. In the fourth example, they use “soon” because it must be done in the immediate future – in this case, before Friday.

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