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In an answer to a Writers SE question, I used the phrase “a bright morning at the front of spring”. John M. Landsberg commented:

Nice revision, but note we wouldn't say "the front" of a season. In poetry, you might make it work, but never in prose. Seasons have temporal length, not physical substance, and they also come and go, so you can say the beginning of spring, the onset of spring, the arrival of spring, and more, but never the front.

Is it true one can never say “the front” of a season in prose? And is there historical precedent (in the way of grammar dicta) for not applying front to ethereal or ephemeral things?

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Don't say "never". But certainly that would be used very rarely, and draw attention to itself. –  GEdgar Mar 16 '13 at 19:43
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3 Answers 3

To paraphrase GEdgar, "never say never". But front for beginning [of a time-frame] is rare today.

As barbie says, in/the front of X is normally only used of tangible objects. Unsurprisingly, since etymologically speaking it derives from Latin frontem (nominative frons) forehead, brow, front; facade, forepart; appearance.

Having said all that, OP can relax, safe in the knowledge that he's in good company. One of dozens of definitions in OED is:

7 b. transf. With reference to time: The first period; the beginning. poet.
1883 R. L. Stevenson "Silverado Squatters" 237 - like a hawthorn in the front of June.

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No, you can never say the “front” of a season, because it is a temporal expanse, not a physical one. You must say the start or beginning of the season, just as you would of a month, a day, or an hour.

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It sounds a bit odd because in front of is basically used before tangible objects. Here the season is intangible. Not always, but maybe in rare cases to talk informally we can use it in front of seasons.

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