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Which sentence is the correct one?

  1. He parked his BMW directly before the diner.

or

  1. He parked his BMW directly in front of the diner.
  • Welcome to EL&U. Please note that simple proofreading is off-topic here; why do you believe one or the other is incorrect, and what research have you already attempted? I encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance. – choster Dec 9 '14 at 7:11
  • Both are acceptable, though the use of before in the sense of "in front of," that is, with reference to place as opposed to time, is considered old fashioned now. This usage is found mostly in legal writing (presented before the judge/court) or such. – Kris Dec 9 '14 at 8:07
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    Old fashioned? 1. "The man came before the king and begged his forgiveness." A sentence still frequently read to little children. 2. "The house burned to the ground before my very eyes." Before is frequently used in preference to in front of when the entity being confronted is huge in size, stature or abstractness. "The winner wept in joy before a roaring thunderous crowd". You would say "I stood before the wall of silence." because the wall is so huge or so abstract that you could never be in front of it. – Blessed Geek Dec 9 '14 at 11:33
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    @BlessedGeek: good examples, but I would say that 1. is indeed old-fashioned, just as the language in much of our children's literature is. As for 2., I wonder if it's not about the size of the entity but the activity. While "in front of," is simply about location, "before" may be used to indicate a sense of "witnessing." It would be odd to say "the house burned to the ground in front of my eyes," because it's not about location, per se, but about the witnessing. Same applies to "the winner wept in joy..." Using "in front of" there makes the location of the weeping almost seem incidental... – Rusty Tuba Dec 9 '14 at 12:46
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    @Rusty Tuba I agree that there are old-fashioned &/or formal, and 'in the presence of [a person]' connotations for locative/directional 'before' that may be present singly or together. I think we also have to consider a connotation of awesomeness: he stood before the largest tree he had ever seen. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 10 '14 at 2:02
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Your number two is the correct one. You'd use the preposition "in front of."

  • Pray, why should that be? – Kris Dec 9 '14 at 8:08
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The first sentence could mean He parked his BMW immediately before the person who was eating parked their car. The second sentence most likely means He parked his BWM at the location directly at the front of the eatery, which is no doubt what is intended.

before in this context is often understood to be time related while in front of is understood to be spatially related.

EDIT

Changed "means" to "could mean".

  • -1 Please see a good dictionary. – Kris Dec 9 '14 at 8:08
  • Also for the meaning of diner. – Kris Dec 9 '14 at 8:09
  • @Kris Diner can be the agent noun: diner n. 1. One that dines: midnight diners enjoying the meal after the theater. 2. See dining car. 3. A small, usually inexpensive restaurant with a long counter and booths and housed in a building designed to resemble a dining car. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language // diner n 1. (Commerce) a person eating a meal, esp in a restaurant Collins English Dictionary // Though the answerer's explanation is rather contrived (needs a lot of contextualising), it's probably as valid as one requiring a now rare usage. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 10 '14 at 10:54
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    @EdwinAshworth It's obvious from the context that the "diner"' is a place, not a person. – Kris Dec 11 '14 at 7:42
  • @Kris So how does that make this answer deserve a downvote? Answerer is commenting validly on the [possible] meaning/s associated with OP's examples. 'Before' is usually reserved for temporal usage nowadays. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 11 '14 at 9:00
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You use "in front of" when you have a local relationship in mind. Typical example: in front of the house, behind the house.

You use "before" when you have a temporal relationship in mind as in: before the war, after the war.

And you can use "before" when talking of order or things as in: The letter A stands before B.

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