Kim frequently exhibited her vast knowledge of baseball before complete strangers.

Before is usually used to depict a time line, so this use is confusing for me.

3 Answers 3


Before means in front of here. Other examples:

Kneel before the King!

He didn't have any experience of appearing before a large audience.

Before you is a list of topics we will discuss today.

This meaning of before is rather formal.

  • At first I thought it was only "formal" because it so often occurs in such forms as Kneel before Zod!. But you're quite right - even your third example would be "In front of you..." in casual speech. It's the same "in front of" meaning as the temporal sense - just that here it's "in front" in space rather than in time. Feb 6, 2012 at 19:14
  • It's all relative to the human body and its projections, metaphorical and other. This is treated in Fillmore's chapter on "Space". Feb 6, 2012 at 19:57
  • @John: Yes, I think the connection between in front of and before is inherent, because in many languages the same word is used for both. Feb 6, 2012 at 19:59

In front of is pretty close, but I believe that for an audience of is more correct.

Using in front of indicates some physical relation, which need not be the case.

  • In front of also has the meaning of for an audience of, doesn't it? Feb 7, 2012 at 0:15
  • @slothsberry can you show an example?
    – Louis Rhys
    Feb 7, 2012 at 1:11
  • @LouisRhys What! you want an example? In front of everyone? :)
    – Kris
    Feb 7, 2012 at 4:50

Here we "before" used in the physical sense see in an old, familiar nursery rhyme.

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?

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