How to use ‘Before’

Before is an adverb, a conjunction, and a prepositionBefore means earlier than the time or event mentioned:

Can you call me back before 5 pm, please? I met her just before she left.

Before: adverb

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.
    (NOT … But before, I want to travel.)



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