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I once had been told by my English teacher that before must be used with a special time or event, like: Say goodbye before you go.

What about:

I've seen that film before.

Is this correct and appropriate? Or is there a better expression?

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I am not completely sure here so will not post as an answer, but I think your later usage is informal in the sense it lets it remain implicit that you are referring to before the current time, I imagine someone not used to the colloquialism or English in general could be confused as the grammar is badly formed technically as before when used properly should only ever be relatively between two objects eg: "A comes before b in the alphabet". In the same sense your phrase should be "I've seen that film before this moment." – Vality Apr 1 '14 at 14:33
I've never done that before. Oops. – Jodrell Apr 1 '14 at 14:55
up vote 7 down vote accepted

In your first sentence, before is a conjunction and, as such, it has to be placed at the start of the subordinate clause which it introduces. In your second sentence, before is an adverb, and it can occur only at the end of that particular sentence.

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But I could say 'I've once/twice before seen that film' or 'I've previously seen that film', couldn't I? – WS2 Apr 1 '14 at 8:09
@medica. You might like to try this: ucl.ac.uk/internet-grammar/home.htm – Barrie England Apr 1 '14 at 8:12
Thank you! That's a new site for me. Much obliged. – medica Apr 1 '14 at 8:23

That is very common and accepted usage of before. The time is implied (before today/now/etc.).

  • I've had mangoes before (today/now).
  • Even though I have been to Paris before (that day), it was just as exciting.
  • I'm here to find out what you think of Norway. Have you been there before, and what's your opinion about Norway as a destination?

I wouldn't use I've seen that film before in formal writing, however. I would say, I've already seen that film.

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It's perfectly fine, and I can't think of a better way to say it. There is an implicit "now" at the end.

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