Before As An Adverb, Conjunction And Preposition

Before as an adverb

Before, as an adverb, means already, in the past and similar ideas.

  • I have seen that film before.

Before can also mean at any time before the past moment that we are talking about. In this case a past perfect tense is used.

  • She realized that she had seen him before.

We also use before after a time expression to count back from a past moment. A past perfect tense is normally used. Note that to count back from the present, we use ago, not before.

Before as a conjunction

The conjunction before is used to join one clause to another. Before and its clause can come either before or after the other clause.

  • I will die before I surrender.
  • Before I surrender, I will die. (Note the comma in the second structure.)

Tenses in before clauses

In a clause with before, we use a present tense to refer to the future.

  • I will telephone you before I come. (NOT — before I will come.)

To emphasise the idea of completion, we often use present and past perfect tenses in before-clauses.

  • You can’t go to bed before you have finished your homework.

In a formal style, we often use the structure before -ing.

  • Please put out all lights before leaving the office.

Before as a preposition

The preposition before is normally used to refer to time.

  • I must get home before nine o’clock.

Note that before can refer to place in a few cases:

a) to talk about the order in which people or things come in queues, lists etc.

  • Your name comes before mine on the list.

b) to mean in the presence of

  • He was brought before the judge.

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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