American English

Definition of before preposition from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1earlier than someone or something before lunch the day before yesterday The year before last he won a gold medal, and the year before that he won a silver. She's lived there since before the war. He arrived before me. She became a lawyer as her father had before her. Leave your keys at the reception desk before departure. Something should have been done before now. We'll know before long (= soon). Turn left just before (= before you reach) the bank.
  2. 2(rather formal) used to say that someone or something is in a position in front of someone or something They knelt before the altar. Before you is a list of the points we have to discuss. compare behind
  3. 3used to say that someone or something is ahead of someone or something in an order or arrangement Your name is before mine on the list. He puts his work before everything (= regards it as more important than anything else).
  4. 4used to say that something is facing someone in the future The task before us is a daunting one. The whole summer lay before me.
  5. 5in the presence of someone who is listening, watching, etc. He was brought before the judge. She said it before witnesses. They had the advantage of playing before their home crowd.
  6. 6(formal) used to say how someone reacts when they have to face someone or something They retreated before the enemy.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: before