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before - definition and synonyms

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adverb, conjunction, preposition     before pronunciation in British English
Before can be used in the following ways:
as a conjunction (connecting two clauses): Think carefully before you choose.
as a preposition (followed by a noun): We moved to London before the war.
as an adverb (without a following noun): I’d met him once before.
  1. 1
    earlier than something
    1. a.
      earlier than a particular time, event, or action

      I went for a run before breakfast.

      The others had got there before us.

      Won’t you have another drink before you go?

      I joined the police in 1999. Before that I was in the army.

      Two weeks before the election the first reports of the scandal began to appear.

      before doing something:

      You should seek legal advice before signing anything.

    2. b.
      at a time in the past

      Haven’t we met before somewhere?

      Never before in modern history has one nation dominated the world so completely.

    3. c.
      used for saying how much time passes until something happens

      Several years went by before I realized that David had lied to me.

  2. 2
    used for saying that something happens which prevents someone from doing what they intended

    Before I could think of a reply she walked away.

  3. 3
    spoken used for warning someone that something bad may happen unless they do something

    Clean up that mess before your father sees it.

    You’d better go away before I lose my temper.

  4. 4
    for someone to consider or watch
    1. a.
      formal used for saying that something or someone is judged or considered by a group of people

      The case went before a grand jury on December 17th.

      The question before us is whether we should allow a foreign government to control our commerce.

    2. b.
      formal used for saying that something is happening where people can watch it
  5. 5
    in front of or earlier than someone/something
    1. a.
      if one place is before another place on your journey, you come to it first

      A few miles before the border we were stopped at an army checkpoint.

      Our house is just before you get to the end of the road.

    2. b.
      formal in front of someone or something

      Lawrence knelt before the king.

      Before the temple gate stood a bronze statue of Buddha.

    3. c.
      used for saying that something is placed earlier than something else in a list or series

      The names are in alphabetical order, so ‘Barnes’ should come before ‘Brown’.

  6. 6
    formal used when saying what will happen in someone’s future

    A promising career stretched out before him.

    You’re still young – you have your whole life before you.

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