Use of Ago and Before - Confusing Words in English

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In this lesson, we will learn how to use ‘ago’ and ‘before’ without getting confused.


Brad: The word ‘ago’ refers to a past moment. The word ‘before’ refers to a moment earlier than something or someone else.

Martha: Yes, they both speak of a time in the past. However, ‘before’ can also be used to speak of the future.

Brad: ‘Ago’ is used when we speak of past times only. For example: The meeting started twenty minutes ago.

Martha: That is right. We use ago just to speak of something which happened in the past. For example: A long time ago, there was a king who ruled these lands.

Brad: ‘Before’ is used when we speak of an event or moment in the past which happened earlier than another moment or event. For example: Before metal was discovered, early man used stones to hunt.

Martha: That’s correct. It can be also used to speak of something in the future which will happen earlier than another future moment or event: The jury will check all the reports before rendering the verdict.

Brad: ‘Before’ is used to establish the order in which things occur. For example: John arrived before Jack; or, John will arrive before Jack.

Martha: ‘Before’ connects two situations. Here is one example: John was operated two months before his exam. Here, the operation happened earlier than the exam.

Brad: Alright, Martha, let’s listen to some conversations now to understand better.

Conversation: #1

Sammy: How are you Matt, when did you arrive?

Matt: I arrived just five minutes ago.

Sammy: So, did you make it in time for the movie yesterday or had it started before you got there?

Matt: It started ten minutes before I got there.

Sammy: That’s too bad. The beginning of that movie is very funny.

Conversation: #2

Matt: Centuries ago people believed that the Earth was the center of universe.

Sammy: That’s right. It was before Galileo proved that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

Matt: Yes, but Copernicus suggested that before Galileo.

Sammy: Is that so? Wasn’t it Galileo who invented the telescope?

Matt: Yes. It was one of his most important inventions.

Conversation: #3

Brad: Hey Martha, did you meet Mr. Smith?

Martha: Yes, but it was a long time ago.

Brad: We should talk to him before presenting our final report.

Martha: That’s right. He’ll surely help us.

Brad: I called him just an hour ago to schedule an appointment.

Martha: That’s good. Let’s talk to him before our class starts.

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