Does this sentence make sense, and does it mean that you will reach a place earlier than someone else? Or would you have to say "ahead of you" or the aforementioned "earlier than you"?

I will be there before you.


before you makes sense and is completely idiomatic, probably more idiomatic than "I'll be there earlier than you". One of the meanings of before is "at an earlier time", and this is an example of using the word in that sense.

In fact, "I'll be in Scotland before you" is part of the lyrics of a famous song. (It's often written and sung as afore ye, which is archaic, but the words and meaning are essentially the same.)

  • Is it Scottish English or is it Scots? Not convinced even a Glaswegian would say "afore ye" these days... – Muzer Apr 19 '17 at 8:59
  • @Muzer The rendition of The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond on Wikipedia renders it "afore ye" but is clearly in English, not Scots. Compare, for example, this fragment of the New Testament in Scots. – David Richerby Apr 19 '17 at 9:11
  • @DavidRicherby Fair enough. I guess it hardly has to be an accurate representation of modern Scottish English dialect! – Muzer Apr 19 '17 at 9:13
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    @Muzer Indeed -- it's a traditional song, so the lyrics we know today are probably a mishmash of idioms and edits over hundreds of years. It probably doesn't correspond to the dialect of any specific time, any more. – David Richerby Apr 19 '17 at 9:16
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    @Muzer - just to avoid confusion or misrepresenting anyone, I'm editing my answer. I thought it was Scottish usage, but what do I know? – stangdon Apr 19 '17 at 11:44

I will get there before you
I will get there ahead of you
I will get there first

all mean

I will get there earlier than you

and are interchangeable without loss of meaning.

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    Hmmm, could it also mean "I will be there [standing] before you"? (Say, part of longer speech: "When that day comes and you face your enemies, I will be there before you". Just wondering about the interchangeability. – muru Apr 19 '17 at 8:26
  • Saying "standing there before you" is ambiguous since it could mean either in terms of time or in terms of location, one might say in front of you to remove ambiguity. In the OP's examples get there implies in terms of time. – Peter Apr 19 '17 at 17:09

“I will be there before you will be there.”

You are referring to an earlier part in the sentence.

  • Please edit to include an explanation of why this is correct; answers without explanation do not teach the patterns of the language well. See the Submitting Answers that merely answer the question discussion on meta. – Nathan Tuggy Apr 19 '17 at 8:43
  • This is grammatically correct but it's unidiomatic. Nobody would ever say this, unless there was some unusual reason that made them need to spell it out in so much detail. – David Richerby Apr 19 '17 at 9:13
  • Well, that's not the point i'm getting at. It means that, no-one actually says it that way... – Paul de Koning Apr 21 '17 at 9:08

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