'You have heard this before.' You may have noticed 'before' in such sentences. In this lesson, we will discover more about it.
'Before' is very common among native speakers. It is used as a conjunction, a preposition, and an adverb. In this lesson, we will discuss how to learn and use it.
Functions of 'Before'
'Before' as a Conjunction
One of the uses of 'before' is to function as a conjunction. Below, we will learn about the kinds of conjunctions it can be:
'Before' as a Subordinating Conjunction
We can use 'before' to connect the subordinate clause to the main clause. Below, we are going to learn about its different meanings:
- When we want to indicate that something has happened earlier:
I want to check out on my grandma
Here, the first action is happening earlier than the second one.
Just talk to me
- When we want to prevent further damage or negative results. Take a look:
Careful with your words
- When we want to indicate that something must be done first to be able to move on to the next stage. Study the following examples:
Don't you think you must apologize to your mother
It's obligatory that all students take the admission exam
- When we want to indicate that a period of time must be elapsed till we get the thing we want. Analyze the following examples:
A few days passed
As you can see, a specific period of time has been past.
They remained silent a few minutes
Position in a Sentence
Since 'before' here is a subordinating conjunction, we can use it at the beginning of the dependent clause or between the two clauses we want to connect, or we can put them before the phrase we want to add. Look:
She is supposed to analyze the positive and negative consequences of her decisions
If we are using 'before' at the beginning of the subordinate clause, we must put a comma before the main clause. Look:
Please note that we must use the simple present tense with 'before' when talking about future events. Take a look below:
I have to go
(Not I have to go before it
'Before' as an Adverb
Another use of 'before' is to be an adverb. Below, we are going to analyze the kinds of adverbs it can be:
'Before' as an Adverb of Time
- When we want to refer to an earlier time, we use 'before' as an adverb of time:
I think I've met this girl
I walked under this building for hours the week
It might be useful to know that 'before' as an adverb was used to show that someone/something was ahead of another. However, it is archaic and we no longer use it. Take a look below:
Guards were standing
Position in a Sentence
Since 'before' is used as an adverb, we mainly put it after the verb, especially after the direct object when the verb is transitive. Look at the following examples:
I have never seen this witch
They've attended this seminar
'Before' as a Preposition
Another use of 'before' is to function as a preposition. Below, we are going to see the different kinds of prepositions it can be:
'Before' as a Preposition of Time
- When we want to show a period of time preceding something, we use 'before' as a preposition of time:
I can watch another episode
Just read a few pages
'Before' as a Preposition of Place
'Before' can also be a preposition of place. Look below:
- When something/someone is ahead of another in a list, we use 'before':
Anna's name is right
- When we want to indicate that something happens where some people can see it:
Aren't you supposed to present your ideas
She is brought here to dance
- In preferences, when we are putting things/people before others, we use 'before'
The biggest lesson I learned was to put myself
The Aldens always put other peoples' needs
Position in a Sentence
Since 'before' is a preposition here, we always put it before nouns or noun phrases. We can begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase, put it in the middle, or at the end of the sentence. Look at the following examples for more clarification:
Stop writing your homework
Here, the prepositional phrase has come at the end of the sentence.
Here, 'before' has come at the beginning of the sentence.
The class, standing
As you can see, 'before' has been used in the middle of the sentence.
Please note that when we have a prepositional phrase at the beginning of the sentence, we must put a comma after it. Also, when we have a prepositional phrase in the middle of the sentence, we must have commas both before and after it. Look:
That girl, standing
Formal Uses of 'Before' as a Preposition
When we use 'before' as a preposition, there are some formal cases in which we can use it. We will learn all about them below:
- When we want to say something/someone is in front of another:
The desert stretched out before
The professor stood
- When we must face a situation, a task, etc. Take a look:
Defending my proposal lays
Selling this house lays
- When you have a period of time to use it the way you want:
You have a month of complete freedom and fun
Literature students have a difficult literary course
Idioms with 'Before'
We have a few idioms with 'before' that are pretty common among native English speakers. Let us see what they are about:
- Before you know it: This idiom means 'very soon':
The semester will end
- Before long: This one means 'soon':
He'll be a professional
Enjoy your peace cause there will be none