Maybe it's just me, but the english translation of this is very unnatural. I can't think of when I'd say "he is before his wife". It would be more natural to say "he is here before his wife" or "he arrives before his wife", but "he is before his wife" seems lacking. Is this more natural in French, or is this just a duolingo-ism?
"Ahead of" is the same as "before" in this context. "Avant" can be used temporally, spatially, or figuratively:
- Nous arriverons avant vous = We will arrive before you.
- D'ici, la boulangerie est avant la pharmacie = From here, the baker is before the pharmacy.
- Ma famille passe avant ma carrière = My family comes before my career.
I would have, but the report button does not appear at the bottom of this particular page, not for me at least. I thought maybe you could refer it back as a moderator. I thank you regardless for informing correctly, but would be good to remove it from the tips as I would have gone forward thinking that avant could only be temporal. :)
This leaves me a little confused too. I would assume devant lends itself to meaning "in front of", as in "he was in front of her in the queue". But "before" could be used in a temporal sense in the same example: "he was before her in the queue" with a similar meaning.
Unless I completely misunderstood, I think I've gathered from some older French texts that the 'devant' / 'avant' dynamic is more or less the same as the 'in front of' / 'before' one in English -- so, it could be said that 'he is in front of his wife' (devant), or 'he is before his wife' (avant). They do carry ever so slightly different meanings (even in this sense), and in more recent times 'avant' may have fallen out of favour, or become reserved for more formal and / or poetic uses, as in English; but I do believe they're both valid. (Someone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong though!)
The vowel in the second syllable of "avant" sounds almost exactly like the first, but slightly more nasal. The vowel in the second syllable of "avons" is a nasal o. If you were to look in a mirror while saying them, your mouth would be open for the first, but almost closed for the second.
Imagine people are standing in a straight line, in front of each other. You can say they're avant or devant each other, both words apply here.
Now imagine a bank line, where people get a number ticket and wait seated for them to be called by their number. Maybe they're sitting in front of you: then you can say they're devant. But maybe they're not even near, but they're before you in the line: so you can only say they're avant.