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English definition of “before”

before

preposition, adverb, conjunction     /bɪˈfɔːr/ US  /-ˈfɔːr/
A1 at or during a time earlier than (the thing mentioned): You should always wash your hands before meals. Before leaving he said goodbye to each of them. She's always up before dawn. Before he could reach the door, she quickly closed it. Before we make a decision, does anyone want to say anything else? She had to give the doorman a tip before he would help her with her suitcases (= he would not do it until she had given him a tip).Before, after and alreadyAfter and behind B1 until (the event mentioned): It was an hour before the police arrived.Until a particular moment A2 in the past: He said he had never seen her before. I feel as though I've been here before.In the past Grammar:BeforeBefore is a preposition, an adverb and a conjunction. Before means earlier than the time or event mentioned:See moreGrammar:Before as a prepositionWe use before most commonly with noun phrases to refer to timed events:See moreGrammar:Before, by, till, untilIf you have to do something before a certain point in time, then when that point arrives, the action must already be completed:See moreGrammar:Before as an adverbBefore often comes after nouns such as day, morning, night, week, month, year to refer to the previous day, morning, etc.:See moreGrammar:Before as an adjunctWe use before to connect earlier events to the moment of speaking or to a point of time in the past:See moreGrammar:Before as a conjunctionWe use before as a subordinating conjunction. We commonly use before with the past simple tense. It suggests that the second event happened soon after the first one. The before clause, which indicates the second action, can be at the end or at the beginning of the sentence:See moreGrammar:Before with -ingA non-finite clause with before + ing-form is more formal:See moreGrammar:Just before, immediately beforeWe can use adverbs such as just, immediately, shortly and long, and expressions involving words such as days, weeks, months, years in front of before:See moreGrammar:BeforehandWe can use beforehand as an alternative to before as an adverb, especially when the reference to time is less specific.See moreGrammar:Other uses of beforeSee moreGrammar:Before: typical errorsSee more
(Definition of before prepositionadverbconjunction from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
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