If there are two vehicles on a road, and I want to differentiate them, can I say "the ahead vehicle", using ahead as an adjective?

  • 1
    Putting it that way isn't idiomatic: we would more normally say "the vehicle (which is) ahead".
    – stangdon
    Apr 19, 2021 at 11:41

1 Answer 1


No - "ahead" is an adverb and is always relative to something:

  • One car is ahead of the other (compares the two positions)
  • On the road ahead (compares to your relative position)

In your context, referring to a vehicle that is ahead of another, you could say:

  • The car in front.

or, if the cars were competing in a race, you might say:

  • The car in the lead.
  • OK, except that in modern grammar, "ahead" is a preposition, not an adverb.
    – BillJ
    Apr 19, 2021 at 11:30
  • I don't see how this "explains" anything. Saying that "ahead" is always relative to something doesn't mean much when in your second example (and OP's context), it's just an implied relative to your position, or relative to the other car. And if the relevant "grammatical label" can vary between "adverb" and "preposition" (neither of which are usually clear-cut elements for a learner), I don't see the point of the labels either. The point is that idiomatically, "ahead" (unlike, say, "leading" or "next") always appears after the noun it modifies, never before. Apr 19, 2021 at 14:29
  • (Whereas certain similar words, such as above, can come before or after the noun they modify. And I don't think it matters whether you call above a preposition, an adverb, or an adjective - that won't explain why not all such terms can appear in both positions. Imho, only "idiomacy" can do that.) Apr 19, 2021 at 14:32

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