By vs. Before

'By' and 'before' are mainly confused when they are referring to time. In this lesson, we will learn their uses and differences.

"By" vs. "Before" in the English grammar

What Is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between 'by' and 'before' is that 'before' is used to show a time in advance of a certain time while 'by' talks about a time that is not later than a given deadline.

Talking about Deadlines

We can use 'by' to set deadlines. We use 'by' to set a specific time in which everything must occur before or at the exact moment. For example:

Turn in your assignments by midnight.

You have by Saturday to finish this project.

Talking about Earlier in Time

We use 'before' to show that something occurred in advance of a particular time or event. We do not use 'before' to set a deadline but we just use it to set a time. For example:

Try to be here before 9 p.m.

He always arrives before dinner.

Talking about Location

Both 'by' and 'before' are used to show location. 'By' is used to show the specific location of something near a place or another object.
'Before' is used to show the location of something in front of something else. For example:

I always go on picnics with my friend by the river.

They killed him right before my eyes.

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