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Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by nic456, Mar 22, 2013.

  1. nic456 Senior Member


    I have come across this sample sentence: 学生要在九月一号之前报到.
    I understand the construction of 在...前, but what is the point of using 之, why not simply 学生要在九月一号前报到?

  2. zhg Senior Member


    Of course you could say 学生要在九月一号前报到,I see little difference between them except that 之前 is slightly formal-er than 前.
  3. wangyunfei

    wangyunfei New Member

  4. tarlou Senior Member

    之 is the ancient word for 的, 之前 means something like “的前面” in modern Chinese. So 之前 is better in grammar, and a simple 前 also has no problem since we often omit those structural words no matter it is 的 or 之.

    But don't use "的前面", since it is mostly about physical position instead of time. You can use it for time in some special cases: 在那件事的前面还有几件事. When saying this, you are probably (maybe only in mind) making gestures that put one thing here and other things to the left of it, like putting things on an axis.

    There does exist some cases that you cannot use “前”, but “之前” (or 以前, where 以 is a different structural word) is fine. For example,
    在那前 :cross: 在那之前/在那以前:tick:
    The reason is that 那 is too short and the sentence does not sound good if you omit the structural word.

    It is a bit difficult to summarize a grammar rule that works for all cases. The development of Chinese was a very complicated procedure. The above are only my opinion according to a very limited number of examples. Maybe the safest way is to use 以前 in conversations and 之前 in writings.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013

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