Learn English Vocabulary – Ago Vs. Before

Michael Vocabulary Leave a Comment


I started teaching English a long time ago. Actually, it was 28 years ago when I got my first full time teaching position. I was helping my classmates in college with English a few years before that. I’m not sure if you know this or not, but before I was an English teacher, I was a music teacher.

Do you know how to use ago and before? A lot of my students told me that they have trouble with this kind of English grammar so today I am going to show you how to use these words.

Ago relates to the present time. Ago indicates a time in the past based on now, and generally it is a specific time. Ago tells us how long prior to now:

  • I started teaching English 28 years ago.
  • Jack got to the office ten minutes ago.
  • Twenty years ago, cell phones didn’t have a display screen.

We also use phrases like many years ago, a couple of weeks ago, a few hours ago, etc. to describe a non-specific point in time based on now:

  • Bob started working here many years ago.
  • We got a new car a couple of weeks ago.
  • A few hours ago, the boss made the announcement.

Before also relates to the present time, but a non-specific point prior to the present time. We generally use the present perfect and sometimes the simple past with before:

  • Rome? Sounds nice, but I’ve never been there before.
  • I’ve seen that movie before. It’s really good.
  • By the way, I saw Jim before. He was in a good mood.

Before also relates to a point in time, either the past or the future, but that point in time is not now. One point in time is mentioned first, then before is used based on the point in time mentioned first.

  • Maya came to NYC in 2010. Before that, she lived in Paris for a year. This means that she lived in Paris in 2009.
  • I met Jane before I started working at IBM.
  • If you want to start university in September, you need to take the TOEFL exam at least nine months before that.
  • It’s July now, and the party is in September. You should confirm everything at least 3 weeks before.

Keep in mind the best way to remember this or any vocabulary in English is to take the word or phrase write it in a sentence that’s true for you or true in your world and then memorize your sentences.

You can even take your sentences and write them in the comments below. I would love to see your examples. And if you really want help with vocabulary, sign up for my free vocabulary workshop (see below).

If you know anyone who might be interested in this English language point, why not help them out! Just share this lesson with them. Thanks for studying today!

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