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Avant vs Devant

French prepositions

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Because they can both mean "before," there is often confusion between the prepositions avant and devant. But there's a big difference in the way these words are used, so read this lesson before you make any more mistakes.

Avant expresses something to do with time or arrival at a physical location. Avant can be with expressions of time, nouns, and pronouns.

   avant midi
   before noon

   avant l'examen
   before the test

   Je me suis arrêté avant le carrefour.
   I stopped before [arriving at] the intersection.

   Il est parti avant moi.
   He left before me.

Avant de is used with infinitives

   avant de partir
   before leaving

   avant de manger
   before eating

Avant que is used with clauses and requires ne in front of the verb (why?)

   avant qu'il ne parte
   before he leaves

   avant que tu ne manges
   before you eat


Devant expresses position or location (figurative or literal) and means "before" or "in front of." It can be used only with nouns and pronouns.

   devant la voiture
   in front of the car

   devant les juges
   before the judges

   devant le danger
   faced with / in the face of danger

   Il est devant toi.
   He's in front of you.

Test: Avant vs devant


Also see: Après vs derrière
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