the difference between words: later and soon

later

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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9 Comments »

  1. AM Said:

    How about in this context?

    A: Best of luck tomorrow in your interview. You’ll do amazing 🙂
    B: Ha – thanks so much! Hope things are going well. Talk to ya soon!

    • Hi there.

      Yes. We can use “soon” in the context of your example. The difference between “talk to you soon” and “talk to you later” is that “talk to you soon” sounds friendlier and as if you’re expecting to talk to the person in the near future. When we say “talk to you later”, it sounds as if we don’t know exactly when we’ll speak to the other person again.

      Thanks for your question.

      Mike

      • AM Said:

        Thank you for that input. It’s just really confusing because its interchangeably… When I use those two phrases, I use the same exact concept of yours, but others use it differently.

  2. datt Said:

    i wanted to use the latter and sooner in one context.please provide me with example.

  3. Ennis Said:

    Hi Mike,

    I am so lucky to find your blog focus on English Grammar. It really helps me a lot.

    Here I have a question about the word “later”, I’d like to ask you for advise.

    Yesterday, one of my co-worker sent me an email which was ending with the following sentence:

    “Have a good week. I’ll come back to you later on the spec detail.”

    Dose the word “later” means that she will contact me in the future but not immediately ?

    BTW, the sentence “have a good week”, this made me confused. Dose she mean that she won’t contact me until next week?

    Best Regards
    Ennis

    • Hi Ennis.

      First of all, when we say “Have a good week.” or “Have a good day.” it’s just a polite thing we say usually when saying goodbye to someone.

      The word “later” does not refer to any specific time; it could be very soon or it might take a little longer. There’s really know way of knowing how long it will take when someone says “later”. However, it shouldn’t take an extremely long time in this context. If she doesn’t get back to you after a week, you should contact her again.

      Hope that helps.

  4. Denise Said:

    Hi Mike!

    I’m still really confused. What if you already know that you’ll see the other person after 4 months time, what shall I use? soon or later?

    Thank you!

    Denise

    • In that case, I would say, “See you in four months.” or “See you next time.”


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