A Year Later or In A Year?
What's the difference between saying, "a year later" and, "in a year"? As a native speaker, I'm sure you won't have thought about it! But if you're still learning English, there's a chance the difference between these two will elude you. It has tripped a lot of people up, so read on to find out why...
A Year Later...
... we got married.
... I found out my sister was engaged.
... I discovered the other sock under the bed!
Take a careful look at the ends of the sentences above. Is there anything you notice about the verb tenses?
In a Year...
... we'll be leaving for our world trip.
... I'll have finished studying.
... I hope we'll still be happy together.
Now take a look at the second set of sentences. What do you notice about these?
When learning English, a lot of students learn the word, 'later' and then just use it for any situation that occurs after something else. This isn't always wrong! If you're talking about a series of events in the past and wanting to describe something that happened after something else, then 'later' is probably just the word you need! Take a look at the first set of examples above. In each case, you're telling me part of a story that happened in the past. In this instance, 'later' is the perfect choice.
So, what's the problem?
The issue arises when you try to use 'later' to talk about the future with a period of time. Let's imagine you and I are having a discussion about your study plans:
Me: So, how's your English coming along at the moment?
You: Well, not bad. I've been doing my homework every night, but I'm finding that I'm still struggling a bit with listening.
Me: Hmmm. Can you think of anything that might help with that?
You: Well two weeks later, I'll be going on holiday to China, and when I get back, I'm going to start working on it.
Nope! 'Two weeks later' is incorrect here, because you're trying to use it with a period of time (two weeks) to refer to the future starting from now. The correct sentence would be:
Well in two weeks, I'll be going on holiday to China, and when I get back, I'm going to start working on it.
So, the rule to remember when you want to mention a specific period of time starting now is this:
if you're talking about the past, use 'later'
if you're talking about the future, use 'in'
If you're not mentioning a specific period of time starting now, feel free to use 'later' or 'later on.'
I'm going to finish my homework now, and later on I'll watch some TV.
I think I'll head over to see Sam later.
Do you want to help me bake some muffins later?
Test Your Skills
Which of these sentences is incorrect? See corrections below!
1. I'll be leaving for school in a few minutes, so hurry up!
2. My mum is still at work now, so we'll come over a bit later.
3. My course finishes on Friday and two weeks later we'll be leaving for Egypt.
4. I'm busy right now, I'll call you five minutes later.
5. I lost one of my favourite socks last Christmas Eve and three months later I found it at the back of my wardrobe.
6. We'll be leaving to catch the bus twenty minutes' later.
1. correct: specific time period starting from now to talk about the future: use 'in'
2. correct: no specific time period mentioned: used 'later'
3. correct: time starting from a time in the future to another time in the future: use 'later'
4. incorrect: specific time period starting from now to talk about the future: use 'in'
5. correct: time in the past after another time in the past: use 'later'
6. incorrect: specific time period starting from now to talk about the future: use 'in'