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Comma before “before” — Rules & Grammar

Comma before “before” — Rules & Grammar

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Do you need a comma before “before”?

You need a comma before “before” when it comes after an introduction, an appositive phrase, a parenthetical idea, or a direct address. Meanwhile, no comma goes before “before” when it is used as a regular adverb, preposition, or conjunction.


Using a comma before “before”: Cases to take note of

While you can place a comma after “beforehand” or “before” when either starts the sentence off, it will never make sense to discuss placing a comma before it.

As there’s no way a comma should come before “before” when it comes at the beginning of a sentence, let’s talk about placing it in other parts instead.

Below, you’ll find out when to use a necessary comma before “before” whenever you have to use it in the middle or end of your sentence.


Comma before “before” in the middle of the sentence

No matter what part of speech you want to use “before” for, a comma always comes before it when it introduces something that is grammatically non-essential.

For starters, a comma before “before” becomes mandatory when “before” comes after an introductory expression.

Introductory expressions can be as short as a single word or as long as a clause. No matter what you use, the comma is always needed as a rule of thumb.


Now, before I go to bed, I always make sure the windows are closed and locked.


The use of appositive phrases also makes placing a comma before “before” required. However, the appositive phrase needs to be non-restrictive to make that happen.

A non-restrictive appositive phrase is something that can be removed without hurting the grammar of the remaining parts.

On the other hand, a restrictive appositive phrase is something that is grammatically essential to your sentence – that without it, the sentence would be pointless.

No commas are needed around restrictive appositive phrases, but commas are required around non-restrictive ones.


(non-restrictive) Walter Wilson, a social media journalist, works for the realtors.
(restrictive) Your classmate Drake is waiting for you outside.


Now, here’s an example of a non-restrictive appositive phrase coming before “before” where the comma is needed:


She had bumped into her ex, a handsome guy named Ryan, before she went to work.


You can also use “before” to introduce a parenthetical or interruptive thought in the middle of the sentence.

Parentheticals are also additional elements that are simply used to make sentences more meaningful and emphatic.

They are also grammatically non-restrictive, which means commas are always necessary around them.

Have a look at the next example to see how to use “before” to introduce a parenthetical adverb clause.

Remember that another comma should also come at the very end of the parenthetical clause introduced by “before.”


I had given him a little boost and said, before the lights went off, that all he had to do was to look at the audience’s foreheads instead.


A comma should also come before “before” in the middle of the sentence if a direct address comes before it.

A direct address or vocative expression is used to directly refer to a message receiver rather than talk about that person.

A comma before a vocative should always be used when it comes at the end of the sentence, at least in formal writing contexts.

Apparently, a comma before “before” should also be used when a vocative expression comes right before it, as in the example below:


Jane, before I knew your dad, I was already in love with someone else.


Comma before “before” at the end of the sentence

When you add a grammatically inessential element in the middle of the sentence, a pre-comma is also expected to be used at the end of it.

This means that when your interruptive thought is followed by something introduced by “before” at the end of the sentence, you’ll need to use a comma before it.

You can use “before” as a preposition and add the phrase it introduces at the end of a sentence as in the following example.


A person in love will do everything for someone special, including patience and sacrifice, before giving up.

Alternatively, you may also use “before” as a conjunction to attach a subordinate clause at the end of the sentence.


You’ll have to think hard about it, as if you don’t know that yet, before it gets too late.


Note that the ideas found in the middle of the two examples above are removable. They have only been added to enrich the meaning of the host sentences.

Also, without parentheticals inserted midway, commas before subordinate clauses are not supposed to be used.

These types of constructions are what make up complex sentences that are in their usual order, hence the lack of comma.

If, however, the dependent clause begins the sentence, and the independent clause comes after, a comma should be used at the end of the dependent clause.


No Comma before “before” when…

If there are cases in which we always meed to take note of using a comma before “before,” there are also cases where we don’t.

As mentioned early on, no commas should be found around sentence elements that are grammatically essential to the whole meaning of the sentence.

This means that we only need to know when “before” acts as a restrictive word to meanwhile know that the comma should not be used at all.

“Before” has many faces; it can act as an adverb, preposition, or even a subordinating conjunction in a sentence.

No matter what part of speech it acts upon, no comma should come before it when its meaning is needed to complete the sentence.

Let us see how this explanation plays out below.


No comma before “before” as an adverb

The adverb “before” is something you would use by itself. It suggests an indefinite time in the past, which is contrary to “after.”

Some of the most common uses of the adverb “before” include “earlier,” “until now,” “until then,” “previous to,” and “prior to.”

No comma should come before “before” when it is used as a regular adverb suggesting any of the meanings above.

This usage of before makes it commonly placed at the end of the sentence.


Our parents didn’t worry too much about money before.
His dad’s baseball years had ended ten years before.

The adverb “before” is also commonly used when writing sentences in the present perfect aspect, as it suggests an indefinite time before the relative “now.”

In the example below, you would easily understand that “before” means “sometime in the past.”


I’m sure I’ve met you before.


“Yesterday” is also an adverb used to express time in the past. No comma before “yesterday” should also be used when using it in a similar way.


No comma before “before” as a preposition

“Before” can also be used as a preposition followed by a noun phrase, making a prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase can either act as an adjective or an adverb in a sentence.

Those prepositional phrases headed by “with” like “with a beard” and “with the hottest temperature” are used as adjectives.

Meanwhile, those that are used to express time or location like “from Monday” and “at the back” are adverbs.

As a preposition, “before” can be used to express time and location. It could either mean “the preceding time” or “in front of someone or something.”

To indicate time, the next sentence shows how you can use the preposition “before.” No comma should be used around it.


You had better get yourself ready before lunch.

To indicate location, “before” can be used to mean “in front of” or “in the sight of,” such as in the next example:


Anna stood right before me with her eyes drenched in tears.


No comma before “before” as a subordinating conjunction

Last but not least, no comma should also come before “before” when it acts as a subordinating conjunction in the middle of the sentence.

Subordinate clauses are what subordinating conjunctions connect. They are used to build complex sentence types.

A complex sentence is made up of at least one dependent and one independent clause. The independent clause comes before the dependent one in a regular structure.

In a regular structure, no comma should be found before the subordinating conjuction – not unless a parenthetical idea is inserted midsentence.

The conjunction “before” often means “earlier than a certain time.” No comma should come before “before” in a sentence like this:


Hey, please turn off the lights before you leave.

It could also be used to mean “sooner or quicker than something.” No comma should still come before it in the next example:


I’ll be done changing the tires before you know it.

If you’re wondering about the other sentence type that meanwhile needs a comma before the conjunction, that one is called “compound sentence.”

Compound sentences are linked by coordinating conjunctions. These conjunctions go by the acronym “FANBOYS.”

The comma usage with “FANBOYS” should be easy to remember. The rule of thumb is to always use one whenever it links an independent clause somewhere midsentence.


Comma usage before “just before”

“Just before” is also a closely related expression that may drag you down when writing. Little did you know that the rules are pretty much the same.

You need to use a comma before “just before” when it comes after an introductory expression:


About six miles up the country road, just before you get to Bluejay Lane, you have to turn left.


The same rule applies when “just before” comes at the end of the sentence and a parenthetical interruption comes before it.


You have to get up and get ready, as I’ve told you already, just before dawn.


A comma before “just before” is also required when a direct address comes right before it anywhere within the sentence.


Miss Emma, just before you leave, I’d like to ask you something.


As another golden rule, a comma before or after names or direct addresses should always be used in formal correspondence.

Also, don’t forget to use two commas around the direct address when it appears in the middle of the sentence.

Meanwhile, no comma should come before “just before” every time it is used as an essential part of the sentence.


He arrived just before my speech.


Frequently Asked Questions on “Comma Before ‘Before’”

How do we use “before” in a sentence?

“Before” can be used as an adverb, preposition, or conjunction in a sentence. In “I’ve seen you before,” it is an adverb. In “before midnight,” it is a preposition.” In “before I fall in love,” it is a conjunction.


What are synonyms for “before”?

“Previously,” “earlier,” “early on,” “up until now,” “until then,” and “sooner than” are common synonyms for “before” when it is used to indicate time. However, “at the sight of” or “in front of” someone or something are also valid synonyms of “before” used to indicate location.


What does “before” mean?

“Before” mostly refers to a time in the past. It can be used as an indefinite, general reference to the time before the relative “now,” or it can be used to suggest something more specific as in “two years before.” It can also mean “in front of someone or something” as in “He stood before his mom.”