in front of/next to the tree


Senior Member
He stopped in front of/next to the tree. (Context: He was running.)

My first choice was in front of, but come to think of it, trees don't have a front and a rear part -- I think. How about stopped at the tree?
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    The "front" of a tree is the side that you see, or the side that faces something, and it does not matter that the tree does not have a front. If your first thought was "in front of", then it is probably correct. However, there is nothing wrong with "next to".


    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    "In front of the X" does not require X to have a front. So "in front of" and "behind" are somewhat unclear. In some cases they have meaning. For example, "in front of" a building usually means "on the side facing the street".

    A path (where other people have gone) is like a street. So if he was running along a path, and he stopped where the path was close to the tree, then "he stopped in front of the tree" sounds good.

    But "next to" and "by" and "near" can also be used, in almost all sentences.

    He stopped [next to / by / near] the tree.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    We consider the front, back, and sides of a tree to be relative to our imagined or real viewpoint. In your case, this will depend on descriptions of the event in the story so far.

    He stopped in front of the tree, makes me imagine that he is facing the tree - maybe closely examining the bark?

    He stopped with his back to the tree, sounds as though he is making a last stand against a pursuer.

    He stopped next to the tree, brings me a mental picture of him standing to one side of the tree, from the point of view of someone watching him run.

    Please can you say (possibly with a diagram) what exactly it is that you want it to mean?
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