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Salieron a comer y luego fueron a nadar.

Salieron a comer y después fueron a nadar.

Both of these translate to: They went out for lunch and then went for a swim.

In English, there are so many words that I frequently use interchangeably. I'll randomly interchange such words for no reason in particular, but still it sounds natural.

So ultimately, I'm asking if it sounds like natural Spanish to interchange 'luego' and 'despues'.

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3  
Yes, they are pretty much interchangeable. The only remark I'd make is that 'luego de' isn't too common in European Spanish. 'Después de' sounds much better. However, that's a matter of regional differences. I believe 'luego de' sounds alright in Latin America. – Yay Jan 20 at 1:10
    
Thanks, @Yay, for correcting some crucial mistakes in the wording of my question. I must be more diligent in proofreading before I post. – Rock Anthony Johnson Jan 20 at 1:16
    
@Yay The remark about "luego de" is interesting, and better answer than comment. – Rodrigo Jan 20 at 1:21
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Yes is natural interchange 'luego' and 'después', is the same.

And remember that is 'después' (é)

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There is a difference, albeit a subtle one. Please see my answer below. – raulk Jan 20 at 13:02

I disagree with the above comments. I'm a Spanish native speaker and there is subtle difference between the two. When used naturally...

  • Después tends to indicate adjacency between the actions, i.e. they ate and they went for a swim afterwards.

  • Luego does not mandate adjacency, i.e. they ate and they went for a swim later.

The difference is very subtle, but a Spanish speaker would likely not use después if they went for a swim 5 hours after eating.

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No había pensado en esa sutil diferencia, pero estoy de acuerdo. No son exactamente iguales. +1 por hacérmelo notar. – DGaleano Jan 20 at 13:01

Yes, they are pretty much interchangeable. However, as usual, there might be some regional differences. One I can think of is "después"/"luego" + de:

  • In Spain, the construction "luego de" sounds a little bit odd. "Después de" sounds much better.

  • In Latin America, I believe "luego de" sounds just as fine as "después de". I cannot tell in which countries both are equally popular —maybe people can tell that in the comments.

Besides that, I cannot think of any other difference, so I'd say it's okay to say both have the same meaning and are used the same.

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1  
I cannot comment about the rest of South America, but in Buenos Aires "luego de" is not used and sounds weird. – Martin Argerami Jan 20 at 14:04

In this particular context yes, they are interchangeable. BUT not every sentence accepts "luego" where "después" is.

The simplest example should be a question like:

"Before or after?"

Which would be

"¿Antes o después?"

Using "luego" there would be wrong.

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1  
This is related, I think, with what @raulk explains in his answer: luego implies immediateness, while después doesn't. So, in this case, we must use después because it is open ended. – Gorpik Jan 20 at 15:28

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