I imagined myself talking to a doctor in English, so I made up this conversation.

A: You should take this medicine before the meals.

B: ................? (Here, I need a question that would require the doctor to specify a certain time)

A: 2 hours before the meals.

This kind of conversation is often used in daily life. However, I could not be sure how to ask about the amounf of time when it comes to specify the beforeNESS with regards to the time of medication.

I think of the following alternatives:

1- How much before?

2- How earlier?

3- How much earlier?

4- How long earlier?

I think number 1 sounds good to me as a non-native speaker, but the others also seem to make sense grammatically. However, I can't be sure. So, which one would be the most common or the most correct?

  • The doctor would say 'before meals'. Commented Oct 1, 2023 at 7:58
  • @KateBunting, I didn't know that. Thanks. However, I thought the article "the" would be necessary if, by meals, I am referring to the 3 times of eating during the day, now the kind of dishes.
    – Yunus
    Commented Oct 1, 2023 at 8:37
  • Yes, I know you are. The standard instruction is "Take three times a day before meals". Commented Oct 1, 2023 at 13:17

1 Answer 1


Except for 2 (which is ungrammatical), they all could work, I'd probably opt for "How long before?"

Or a more "natural" conversational ploy is to suggest an answer and ask for confirmation: "Do you mean immediately before I eat?"

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