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Before as an adverb

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

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.

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.


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

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

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

Before as a preposition

The preposition before is normally used to refer to time.

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.

b) to mean in the presence of

See Also

Back and Again
Bath and bathe
Beat and win
Because of, due to, owing to and on account of
Before and in front of
Begin and Start
Belong to, belong on and belong in
Below and under
Between and among
Between and during
Between and from
Big, large and great
A bit
Born and borne
Bring and take
But, though, in spite of, despite
By and with