I have recently come across the phrase "BEFORE an easel" and been slightly confused by this word usage. At first I thought the author misused the preposition "before" (I have always considered it the preposition of time i.e. "before 700 B.C.") and that it should be definitely replaced by "in front of". However, having scrutinized some examples in the dictionaries, I found that both Kipling J.R. and Thackeray W.M., the English authors, did use "before" in such a phrase.

Can anybody clarify this issue for me? Is it right to say "before an/the easel"? Or maybe is it a kind of fixed expression?

Thank you in advance!

  • Have you checked the word before in a good English-English dictionary? – Kris Mar 2 '18 at 7:11
  • He was brought before the King. He served before the mast. 'Behold the judge standeth before the door' James 5:9. – Nigel J Mar 2 '18 at 7:14
  • "Putting the cart before the horse". There are lots of examples. The part I'm confused about is whether it's the artist who stands before the easel or the subject of the portrait. – Pam Mar 2 '18 at 8:33
  • @Pam It is the artist. – Natalie Mar 2 '18 at 9:43
  • 1
    Where was the phrase "before the easel"? If it's from an older author, it could be (as @BoldBen says) just the current style at the time of writing. If it was a more modern work, I'd suggest the author was trying to convey a sense of grandness for the easel. NigelJ's examples (king, judge, ship) are all quite grand things. – Pam Mar 2 '18 at 10:55

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