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Which is the correct preposition to use here from the options given in title ?

He bowed down ______ altar.

I have mentioned three options here though I had 4 options in the question. I managed to rule out one option but I am confused among these three options . I googled for this sentence and found a website where before was used but I am not sure if that's the correct preposition to use here.

  • Please describe what you wish to convey. You might want before, behind, beside, on top of... please give us more to go on. – Davo May 29 '17 at 14:37
  • @Davo Hello, I have updated the question. – user212388 May 29 '17 at 15:49
  • This does not explain what you desire to represent. We need to know: 1) does the altar have a discreet front, back and sides, or not? 2) is the person facing the altar, away from the altar, or sideways (neither toward or away)? 3) is there an audience? if so, is he between the audience and the altar, or on the far side of the audience? Really, an image would help. Like s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/f1/aa/69/… – Davo May 29 '17 at 15:57
  • Neither I have a image for it nor I was given one in exam. – user212388 May 29 '17 at 15:59
  • See the ngram. Assuming you don't mean on the altar, most literature places one before the altar. – Davo May 29 '17 at 15:59
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With the little context given, my best advice (borne out by the ngram) - is that one bows down before the altar in most literature.

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He bowed down before the altar

This is the more common phrasing for this situation, especially in religious texts.

He bowed down in front of the altar.

This is not ungrammatical, but it implies less reverence (respect) towards the altar. At the very least, it is the just less formal way of saying it.

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