Can you call me back before 5 pm, please? I met her just before she left.
We can use before to mean ‘at any time before now’. In British English, a present perfect tense is normally used.
- I think I’ve seen this film before.
- Have you ever been here before?
Before can also mean ‘at any time before then – before the past moment that we are talking about’. In this case, the 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 to say how much earlier something else had happened. A past perfect tense is normally used.
- When I went back to the town that I had left eight years before, everything was different. (NOT …
that I had left before eight years… )
To count back from the present, we use ago, not before
- I left school four years ago. (NOT …
four years before / before four years)
Before is not generally used alone to mean ‘first’ or ‘before that happens’.
Instead, we use first or before that.
- I want to get married one day. But before that / first, I want to travel.
But before, I want to travel.)
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