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Are the functions mentioned below correct?

1-conjunction 2-preposition 3-preposition 4-adverb 5-preposition

1- Always look both ways before you cross the road.

2- You should always wash your hands before meals.

3- Before leaving he said goodbye to each of them.

4- He said he had never seen her before.

5- The bus stop is just before the school.

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2 Answers 2

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In modern grammar "before" is a preposition in all your examples. Consider:

Items like "before", "after", "since" uncontroversially occur as prepositions when they have an NP as complement, and there's no basis for assigning them to different categories according as they take an NP or a clause -- or no complement at all. Traditional grammar has:

before the meeting.....................preposition + noun

before we arrived.......................subordinating conjunction + sub clause

(I hadn't seen her) before....... adverb, no complement

This is just a matter of varying complementation, which is commonplace. Compare verbs:

I know her father.......................verb + NP

I know that he's ill.....................verb + clause

I know............................................verb without complement

Or noun:

a belief in God.............................noun + PP

the belief that God exists........noun + clause

her beliefs....................................noun without complement

Moreover, in all three constructions, "before" takes the same modifiers, e.g. "a short while".

For the record, Jespersen argued for treating "before" the same in all three constructions nearly a hundred years ago.

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    Interesting, but this does not mean traditional grammar is useless. We need educate both of them Jul 15, 2023 at 8:26
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    Regardless of what modern grammar holds, ESL students learn that a preposition has an NP complement because that's the most practical way for them to learn to use English correctly. The phrase "you cross the road" is not an NP, so "before" isn't a preposition in (1). Or if it is, this requires English learners to be able to determine when a clause is actually an NP, which is beyond those without a background in Linguistics.
    – gotube
    Jul 15, 2023 at 19:12
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    @gotube If's far easier for students now, because words like out and before are always prepositions, which is what students always thought in the first place. They also behave like prepositions and not adverbs, which is a huge relief. And when students say or write stuff like I hate here or Here is cold it's easy to correct them (PPs can't freely appear as subjects or objects). Tonnes of other areas too. For example because + clause and because + of-phrase are now the same word. Etc, etc, etc. Jul 23, 2023 at 17:53
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Your analysis is correct for 1, 2, 4 and 5.

In 3, you can argue it's a preposition because it's followed by a gerund, which is often considered a noun. But it's also arguable that "leaving" is a reduced clause meaning "he left", which would make "before" a conjunction.

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    Unusually, -1. Gerunds are verbs. If we have to say verbs functioning as nouns, we should be clear that that means the verb is being a subject or object (of a verb or preposition). It hasn't turned into a noun, and it has no noun-like qualities. It's easy to show it's a verb in (3) because we can use an NP object and not an of-PP after the verb Before leaving the shop, but not *Before leaving of the shop. Also it can take adverb modifiers and not adjective ones, etc, etc. Jul 23, 2023 at 18:05

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