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  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #41

    Re: There was a large crowd in front of(before) the City Hall?

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    I'm happy now, because your post, 5jj, expresses my opinion too, and better than I managed to do. I only want to say why I think using "before" with buildings is not only unnatural but also archaic. I simply found examples of such usage in older texts.
    I understand why you want to use 'archaic', BC, and I think you might be justified in using it of 'before' in normal conversation. However, I think I could probably find enough examples of it in modern writing to make me hesitate to give 'before' in this sense a blanket 'archaic' label.

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    #42

    Re: There was a large crowd in front of(before) the City Hall?

    There a few instances (mentioned above) where before sounds natural, but it would also sound natural if you stood in front of a judge, etc. My advice (for what it's worth) to anyone but an advanced English student is never use before in place of in front of when you are indicating a position.

    It's only logical. Use in front of and you will always sound natural and correct. Use before and you will usually sound like a person with an imperfect knowledge of idiomatic English.

  3. mayita1usa's Avatar
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    #43

    Re: There was a large crowd in front of(before) the City Hall?

    Okay, I can see that I'm becoming the crazy lady of this thread... Nevertheless, I'm sticking to my guns, with the following clarifications:
    Quote Originally Posted by mykwyner View Post
    Are you kidding me? Is my pickup truck parked before my house? Is there a line of customers before the store?

    If I used sentences like that, any native English speaker would look at me like I just stepped out of a flying saucer. Yes, we stand before a judge, and Obama's speech sounded natural, but freely substituting before for in front of in other usages is usually non-idiomatic.
    I never meant to suggest that someone "freely substitute" before for in front of, especially in everyday conversation. But doesn't "formal" imply that it is used only under certain circumstances (such as creative writing, or a political speech)?
    We continue...

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Here is my BrE contribution, for what it's worth - if anything.

    I would not go as far as labelling 'before' archaic, but it is pretty formal, In normal conversation it wold be very unusual with buildings, and sometimes wrong/confusing - see SoothingDave's post #7.

    I think part of the problem started with engee's first response, "Such use is considered formal by some. And of course it's correct." In the original sentence, There was a large crowd before/in front of the City Hall, 'before' is not really formal; it is unnatural; in that particular sentence I would go so far as to say it is not 'correct'.

    Yes, if we are formal, we stand before a judge, a Senate committee, an audience, a congregation, etc, but we do NOT park our car before our house, and crowds do not normally stand before City Hall.

    Dictionaries, rightly, list this meanng of 'before' because, in the past, it was used with places meaning 'in front of'; indeed it may well still be used in this way by some writers. Advanced students should certainly be made aware of this.

    However, to suggest to most learners that 'before' is correct or natural in the original sentence is unhelpful.

    if you look back through the thread, you will not find one native speaker who feels that it is natural in normal modern English.
    <<hand raised!>> But I do think it is natural in normal, modern, formal English! It's a question of register and style. That is why, somewhere way back in this thread, I tried to provide a context where "before city hall" would sound natural.

    IMHO, the "problem" (if that's what this is) began with trying to impose a black-and-white answer on a colorful language.

    I must agree, however, that the ensuing discussion has probably been unhelpful to learners who don't yet have the background to appreciate subtlety and connotation; from that perspective I can see how I contributed to the confusion, for which I apologize! I now refer you to the two posts previous to (or, ahem, before) this one...
    Last edited by mayita1usa; 23-Feb-2011 at 05:05.

  4. 5jj's Avatar
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    #44

    Re: There was a large crowd in front of(before) the City Hall?

    Quote Originally Posted by mayita1usa View Post
    IMHO, the "problem" (if that's what this is) began with trying to impose a black-and-white answer on a colorful language.
    I agree. I still think the most useful words for learners are mykwyner's:

    Use in front of and you will always sound natural and correct. Use before and you will usually sound like a person with an imperfect knowledge of idiomatic English.

    We can think what we like about how and when it might be possible to use before, but mykwyner's advice will ensure that what a learner says is always acceptable.

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