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The usage of the expression "to come out in front", in the sense of gaining an advantage, or succeed in an endeavor (in spite of all odds?), isn't very clear to me. As far as I can tell people use it most often when talking about finances, as in “We sold the house and managed to come out in front financially”, but I've also encountered phrases like "how women can come out in front" and similar.

I searched TheFreeDictionary, Wordnik, Google and there's no official definition. Is it a colloquial expression?

I guess I'm confused as to whether I should use it abstractly and in the context of some sort of deal, or as a valid substitute for "to win/triumph/succeed".

For example, in a capsule description of a The Simpsons episode from the SNPP fansite the writer comments at the end

"This is the only episode where the family actually comes out in front financially at the end of the show."

Am I using it correctly if I use it like this?

"The police fought the gangs and eventually managed to come out in front."

"I didn't study for the test but came out in front anyway."

"The politician came out in front thanks to minority voters."

"When the player comes out in front, he's rewarded with 1000 experience points and can progress to another level."

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You seem to be using it fine. What is your actual question? –  deadly Jan 8 '13 at 12:20
    
The expression doesn't just mean to gain an advantage it's most often used to succeed. Replace win in the first sentence, passed in the second and won in the third for the expression came out in front and the sentences still read correctly. –  spiceyokooko Jan 8 '13 at 12:31
    
@deadly: context and usage. I understand I can use it if I'm talking about a deal of some kind, like when selling an item and manage to turn a profit, but I don’t know if I can use it whenever I want to say “I succeeded”, if some sort of ‘victory against all odds’ is implied and all that. –  Reddast Jan 8 '13 at 12:41
    
Here's a good usage of that phrase: the poker player played all night and in the morning still managed to come out in front. That's not saying he won the game, it's saying he won more money than he lost. –  spiceyokooko Jan 8 '13 at 12:50
    
@spiceyokooko: I think I'm getting it. So the expression is best used when talking about a relative, not absolute advantage? For example, can I say "Ronald Reagan came out in front in 1984" even though that election was a complete landslide? Or can I use it liberally whenever I want a substitute for "succeed", "win", and so on? –  Reddast Jan 8 '13 at 13:07

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I don't think come out in front has much currency. Consider these results from Google Books...

...came out on top in the end (738); in front (0); come out on top in the end (2510); in front (1).
...came out on top financially (19); in front (1); come out on top financially (74); in front (0).

Note that to come out on top doesn't necessarily mean to be better than everyone else. If you spend an evening playing poker, for example, you can say you came out on top provided you ended up with more money than you started with, even if someone else actually won more than you.

I wouldn't use in front for any of OP's examples. I'd probably say...

The police fought the gangs and eventually gained control.
I didn't study for the test but did well anyway.
The politician won thanks to minority voters.
The winning player is rewarded with 1000 points...

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