What Is the Difference Between Afternoon and Evening?

By Staff WriterLast Updated May 9, 2021 2:07:10 PM ET
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There's no set time on the clock when afternoon turns into evening, as one gradually transitions into the other based on where the sun is in the sky. Thus, the difference between afternoon and evening is dependent on what season it is; in spring and summer, the sun sets later, so evening takes place and ends later. Generally, afternoon is the time of day when the sun is coming down from its peak point in the sky — which happens at noon — until evening. Evening typically begins at the point in the day when the sun is low in the sky, and it ends once the sun has set and twilight is over.

In the United States, afternoon is generally the time between noon and 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., and evening is considered anything after those times until night when the sky is completely dark. There's no set time for this afternoon and evening difference, however, and lifestyle and culture can also play roles in what some groups consider afternoon or evening. This switch often depends on the time of day when business hours are traditionally over, which can vary from country to country.

Dictionary.com defines afternoon as "the time from noon until evening" and evening as "the latter part of the day and early part of the night." In the United States, the typical workday ends at 5 p.m. This is the generally accepted time for the beginning of evening for scheduling purposes, even if the position of the sun in the sky doesn't look like it does when we traditionally think of evening, such as during summer when it's still bright out.

The time on the clock can play a role in other ways, too. In England, the distinction between afternoon and evening is usually determined by tea times. Afternoon tea is a snack that traditionally occurs around 4 p.m. Even in winter when areas might already be experiencing light conditions that look more like evening, this is still considered afternoon tea.