I gave one of my students the task of finding as many ways of connecting two sentences together in reverse chronological order. For example, given the sentences:
Mary eats ice-cream. Mary is sick.
his task was to write sentences like "Mary was sick after eating too much ice-cream" or "Mary was sick as a result of eating too much ice-cream".
One of the sentences he came up with was this:
Before being sick, Mary ate a lot of ice-cream.
To my mind, though, this construction makes it sound as if Mary knew she was going to be sick, but ate a lot of ice-cream all the same. But this connotation doesn't seem so strong if the clauses are reversed:
Mary ate a lot of ice-cream before being sick.
That seems a lot more neutral, in that it could mean that Mary ate ice-cream knowing she was about to be sick, but doesn't necessarily mean that.
I tried constructing sentences like this:
Pete finished the letter before making the phone-call.
Before making the phone-call, Pete finished the letter.
and couldn't see any real difference there at all.
Is this a figment of my imagination? Or is there some definite rule at work here?