"He is before his wife."

Translation:Il est avant sa femme.

January 4, 2013

75 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pattymac60

What is the distinction, if any, between devant and avant?

January 4, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

"il est avant sa femme" => he arrived before her, so it will be his turn first, that is his position in time. "il est devant sa femme" => he is standing in front of her, he is walking first, that is his position in space.

January 4, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jewliun

Once again they should hire you

August 9, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/duolingojr

SiteSurf is the real deal. Thanks again!

January 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flint72

I apologise in advance, but I simply must ask, do you know which preposition you use for something being first in spacetime, that is, before a second event?

In English one would say that two events are causally timelike seperated.

This is a serious question.

August 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

"Avant" is about time and "devant" is about space.

They are not interchangeable and "before" cannot translate to "devant".

August 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/YahyaZuhair

it is right that 'avant' and 'devant' are not interchangeable.
But 'before' translates to both.

Generally, 'before' is time related, i.e. 'avant'
he leaves to work before his wife
However, less frequently, 'before' is used to mean 'in front of' and it is space related, i.e. 'devant'
It is before my eyes -> it is in front of my eyes

August 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/INTJanie

Indeed, "before" can be used as a general substitute for "in front of". It is used in this sense less frequently than in the temporal sense, and to use it in the spatial sense often sounds a bit old-fashioned or like something you'd read in a novel.

"The sprawling sea stretched before him."

"She now stood before the window, clutching her chest."

"The infantrymen took their places before the archers."

"Before him on the table lay the map."

April 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Frederick920203

INTJanie's examples are excellent and serve to illustrate her point well: "before" can be used as a general substitute, in English, for "in front of," but it will sound literary/poetic/old-fashioned. PatrickJ is only half-right; using "before" in a normal context does imply some additional meaning, but it's not true that it would be incorrect to use "before" without such additional meaning. As Janie's examples show.

September 19, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flint72

Sorry, I must not have been clear enough. I realise that 'avant' is for time and 'devant' is for space, but I am trying to find out which is for spacetime, which is both space and time together. It is a theoretical physics concept, so if you are unsure it does not matter.

I have tried reading the francais wiki on the topic, but could not find the word that I was looking for.

August 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Marie282520

Make up one; be the first there, but come back.

June 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PatrickJaye
<h1>flint72</h1>

What preposition would you use in English to describe two events that are "causally time-like separated"?

Maybe we need to determine what it is in English before working out what it is in French.

August 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/daughterofAlbion

Because before can be used in English in both a temporal and a spatial sense, we have no problem in using before to describe relative position in the spacetime continuum.

Since avant and devant are separate concepts in French, the question is: what term do French physicists use?

[I agree that the use of before in a spatial sense is somewhat archaic, and therefore in casual speech tends only to be used in phrases with a biblical or legal origin, however it can have that meaning, which allows Anglophone physicists to use it in this way.]

November 3, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Marie282520

Well but France is legendary and is reminding the world of both freedom and democracy I think, I hope. America has fallen in a sinkhole of yet indeterminate size but it seems pretty big from inside.

June 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Laetitia_Lalila

Very good explanation, thanks.

March 11, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/zoe.tsokolas

oh my golly you're a genius thanks so much

April 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pattymac60

Merci

January 4, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/xuyang1233321

thank you

April 23, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/haseltin

A lot of this stuff you can Google. But I find reading these comments useful too. :-) http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/avant-vs-devant.htm

April 26, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/desertpelican

why c'est avant sa femme is wrong? Isn't "ce" also means "he" too?

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

only in front of a modified noun:

  • he is an honest man = c'est un honnête homme.
February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Cippry

why isn't "il est avant de sa femme" good?

February 1, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

"avant" is a simple preposition, no need to add "de"

February 2, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BrandiWL

I did the same thing. I learned avant de in college.

August 12, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/YahyaZuhair

'avant de' is used before verbs
avant de manger = before eating

August 14, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Marie282520

We appreciate you so much. I thought for sure your symbol was a lamb but that's my eyes...and surely the angel fits, tho I hope it is blushing, being pleased, instead of weeping.

June 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

I like to consider that the angel is thinking hard, never blushing, never weeping. ;-)

June 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Marie282520

Good. We need those angels and hope to catch their BEST thoughts and put them to action..

June 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/alisimz

why is "il est avant sa épouse?" incorrect?

December 2, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

because of the vowel sound conflict a-é.

in front of feminine nouns starting with a vowel or a non aspirated H, "sa" becomes "son":

-son épouse, son amie, son idée, son utilité, son ombre, son habitude

December 2, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/alisimz

ah i thought that might be it, thanks!

December 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/docsimsim

I wrote 'avant de sa femme' but lost a heart. Why??

March 1, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

"avant de + infinitive verb" is about time

Preposition "devant" is about space: "il est devant elle" = "he is before or in front of her" (in the waiting line, for ex)

March 1, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BrandiWL

So are you saying Duolingo is wrong in using Il est avant elle? It should be Il est devant elle instead?

August 12, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/YahyaZuhair

"il est avant elle" is still correct, if he's before her in the order of doing something, e.g. he will eat before her

August 14, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BrandiWL

After studying responses regarding devant (space)/avant (time), it really seems like this statement is relative and could have been translated as either. He is before his wife (i.e. first in all things), Il est avant sa femme. He is before his wife (i.e. standing in front of her in line), Il est devant sa femme.

August 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/YahyaZuhair

you're absolutely correct, here's lingot!

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Marie282520

Yes, men get called before the wife now and then for sure...or re-propose now and then, or beg her to get well or ready faster or ....show respect. Lovely reasons of all sorts. Perhaps could this sentence also describe a rudeness when a man charges ahead and leaves his wife on 5 inch heels trying to keep up..

June 12, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PatrickJaye

It is true that in English the word "before" can be ambiguous and this particular sentence might not be the best for demonstrating that "avant" and "devant" are very distinct concepts"

The English word "before" is primarily about time. Even when we refer to people in a queue we are still talking about time. Mrs A is before Mrs B in the queue. We could give everyone a numbered ticket and let them all sit down instead of standing - but Mrs A is still before Mrs B.

If we want to express the physical line we would say Mrs A is standing in front of Mrs B. We would not normally say "Mrs A is standing before Mrs B"

We use before to express a physical location in only limited circumstances. "He kneels before the Queen" - "She is brought before the judge" - "They stand before the alter" - these are cases where something more is being expressed than just simple location - in particular it is not a neutral relationship.

However I can already imagine the alternative argument which is "but I hear 'before' being used to mean 'in front of' all the time". Well maybe it is not being used correctly in those cases.

August 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RebeccaHillary

I suggest you take up your argument with the Oxford English Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary and Merriam-Webster, which all give 'in front of' as a prepositional definition for 'before'. Just because you personally don't say that something is before something else, please don't assume that the rest of the English speaking world agrees with you.

October 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RebeccaHillary

@PatrickJaye

OED: Matilda stood before her, panting.' Cambridge: 'He stood up before a whole roomful of people, and asked her to marry him.' Merriam-Webster: 'stood before the fire.'

All of these sentences use before to mean in front of.

You use the example of people in a queue. If you are the person that the people are queuing to see, and you are looking down the line and see Mrs A and Mrs B, Mrs A is in front of Mrs B both temporally and spatially, so to suggest that you couldn't use 'Mrs A is standing before Mrs B' to mean both is, in my opinion, wrong. If Mrs A wasn't standing before Mrs B in the queue she would be behind her, or off to the side.

Matilda, in the OED example, may have been standing in front of a teacher, a parent or a friend and Matilda herself may have been a dog or any other animal that pants, but since we have know way of knowing, the fact remains that she still 'stood before her, panting.'

If I stood before the fire, how was I not standing in front of it? If I were standing between the fire and another person, and they were to describe my position in relation to the fire, could they not as feasibly say 'before' as 'in front of'?

The examples you choose to use all suggest that you can only use 'before' in place of 'in front of' if the person you are before is superior to you, including your example of standing before an altar (not alter) which suggests a priest or other minister , and this simply isn't the case.

I in no way suggested that you can use 'before' and 'in front of' interchangeably, but since context determines the meaning of a word or phrase, surely it's better to let people use their own judgement rather than to tell them that they're using that word or phrase incorrectly.

October 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PatrickJaye

@RebeccaHillary

I might do that if they disagreed with me ;)

In my comment I said that in certain circumstances "before" can substitute for "in front of" but can not be used as a general substitute.

Are you suggesting that wherever we have "in front of" in a sentence that we could substitute "before" without changing the meaning of the sentence? Are you suggesting that there is no difference between "before" and "in front of"?

You reference the three major English dictionaries - having carefully read their entries do you think they are saying that "before" is the same as "in front of" and can be a general replacement? Or are they saying that in some circumstances only "before" equals "in front of"?

October 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PatrickJaye

I am not sure if we are disagreeing fundamentally or just on the details.

So you are not saying that "before" can always be substituted for "in front of"?

Can you think of any examples where you would say that it can't - examples of sentences using "in front of" where we can not put "before" instead?

October 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RebeccaHillary

No, I wasn't suggesting you can always use before.

I see it as a matter of perspective. We tend to have a perception of the front and back of an immovable object. Let's say you're in your house, looking out of the window and there's a suspicious van outside. You might say 'that van's been parked in front of the house all afternoon', but you wouldn't say 'that van's been parked before the house all afternoon' because from where you're standing, at least part of the house is closer than the van.

Or to use my earlier example of being in front of a fire. If that fire was in fact a fireplace set in a wall, and the person describing the scene was sitting further along the wall and seeing the scene from the side, they could still say that I'm standing in front of the fire, but almost invariably wouldn't say that I'm standing before the fire, because from their perspective I would be beside it.

Interestingly, your usage of 'before the Queen/court/altar' doesn't strictly relate to being 'in front of' either. It's about being 'in the presence of the Queen/judge/God'.

October 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PatrickJaye

Ah very interesting so you are meaning "before" as meaning directly in front of.

So your car is parked on your driveway exactly parallel to your window and exactly 20 metres away. We can agree that your car is parked in front of your window - but is it parked before your window?

Btw you have my judge/ queen/alter example exactly right. It is precisely because when we say in front of the judge we are not really talking about physical location we only appear to be - that is why we can use "before" instead of "in front"

October 10, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Droplettt

Okay, I'll be the dumb one who asks what's wrong with apres.

February 16, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

before / after = avant / après

February 16, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LyndaBailey1

I think a lot of comment could have been avoided if the original sentence was clearer. I am a UK English speaker and have never said 'He is before his wife'. It sounds odd and ambiguous. Why not change it to: 'He arrived before his wife.'

April 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

The reason is that the verb "arriver" has not been taught yet, nor any past tense, at this stage of the tree.

April 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LyndaBailey1

Ah yes! Sorry. Another suggestion: 'He drinks before lunch.' (Or perhaps if 'lunch' hasn't been taught yet, 'He drinks before meals.')

April 10, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Flanny-chan

I used 'sa marie' because the English sentence refers specifically to marriage. Why is this not accepted?

May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Verb: se marier

Nouns:

  • la mariée (the bride) - le marié (the groom)
  • husband = un mari or un époux
  • wife = une femme or une épouse
May 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zaktan1

Why isn't "avant son marie" correct?

December 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

The feminine of "un mari" (husband) is "une femme" (wife) or "une épouse" (spouse).

Remember that possessives agree with the object and not with the owner:

  • "he is before his wife" = il est devant/avant sa femme
  • "she is before her husband" = elle est devant/avant son mari

"le marié" (with accute accent) = the groom

"la mariée" = the bride

December 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Nozz44

Reading this thread has been informative and helpful... thank you all for your contribution!.

July 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/elirules190

How come, "c'est avant sa femme" doesn't work?

September 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Because "avant sa femme" is not a modified noun describing the subject of the verb "être".

  • he is a nice man = c'est un homme gentil
  • he is before his wife = il est devant sa femme.
September 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DenysLiapunov

Why it is used "sa", not "son"? "His wife", but not "her wife".

October 19, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

The possessives for the 3rd person singular subjects are "son, sa, ses", whatever the nature or gender of the owner.

French possessives are adjectives and like all adjectives they agree with the noun they modify.

his/her wife = sa femme - "sa" is feminine singular because "femme" is feminine singular.

October 20, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/taemoney

I answered est-il avant sa femme. Why isn't this acceptable?

January 2, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

"est-il" is the Verb-Subject pronoun inversion that is used in formal questions, and this sentence is not a question.

January 3, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/taemoney

So we can only use inversion when asking a question?

January 3, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

No, there are usually 3 ways to form a question, depending on the register of speech:

  • formal: est-il avant sa femme ?
  • standard: est-ce qu'il est avant sa femme ?
  • informal/in speech: il est avant sa femme ?
January 3, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AmieReid
February 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MarieB521235

I wrote" il est avant son femme" but got marked wrong and says i should have said "Il est avant son épouse." Why is that? Has it something to do with "sa" femme instead of "son" femme. I was sure " sa" meant her and "son" meant his.

March 8, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

"sa femme" is correct because "femme" is feminine and starts with a consonant sound.

"son épouse" is correct because "épouse" is feminine and starts with a vowel sound.

His/her and its can all translate to:

  • "son" in front of a masculine singular word
  • "son" in front of a feminine singular word starting with a vowel sound
  • "sa" in front of a feminine singular word starting with a consonant sound
  • "ses" in front of any plural word.
March 9, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MarieB521235

Thanks, i'm going to write that down!

March 9, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ellen650182

Doesn't son femme also mean his wife? It says that the right answer should be son épouse

March 17, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Please read above, and keep in mind that French possessive adjectives, just like any other adjectives have to agree with the noun they modify.

March 17, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ellen650182

Thank you!

March 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DawnLange1

I wrote this exact thing and got it wrong because it corrected my "femme" to epouse?!!

May 31, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

You probably submitted "mon femme", which is wrong.

"ma femme" shows that possessive adjectives, like any other adjective, agree with the noun they modify.

"mon épouse" is also a feminine noun, but "épouse" starts with a vowel, this is why "mon" is used instead to avoid the hiatus between mA and Epouse.

May 31, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DawnLange1

No, I actually typed the exact correct answer. I've been studying French for over 20 years and just brushing up on it while I learn Irish... I know that it is "ma" before "femme". I appreciate your help, though!

June 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Good, so next time such an issue arises, please post a screen-shot, so that I can report it.

June 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DawnLange1

I will, thanks!

June 2, 2017
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