6

Consider these expressions:

The place is smelling very bad, the smell seems to be coming from the front/ahead

When I got off the car, I saw a very fast car coming towards me from the front/ahead.

Can you please come forward/ahead a bit,I won't have to talk so loud.

I am always confused about the difference between these three words: front/ahead/forward. Can anyone help me understand these expressions?

4

Ordinarily, ahead means further away, in the direction the speaker (or addressee) is travelling. But no-one appears to actually be moving in OP's examples, so we have to consider other possibilities.

Forward means in the direction the speaker (or addressee) is facing.

The front means either the side of some object nearest to the speaker, or the side from which people usually approach/see the object.

In fact, ahead would do for #1, but only if "the place" refers to an area you're travelling through at the time. If "the place" in #1 is, for example, a house, the front (or the back, the side) would be fine.

For #2, ahead could refer to the direction you were travelling before you got out of (not off) the car. The front doesn't make a lot of sense, because there's nothing to suggest the front of what [object].

I can't see how to contrive a context where ahead makes sense for #3. Come/move forward seems most likely here.

  • Many thanks for your answer,By "area traveling through the time" you mean something like a vechile? – Thor Mar 10 '13 at 19:15
  • @Thor: It would be just as natural to speak of something happening (or being located) [up] ahead if you were walking. There normally has to be actual movement involved when you use the word "ahead". It might be that you've temporarily stopped moving (or maybe haven't even started yet), but the direction of past/present/potential/future movement has to be obvious. – FumbleFingers Mar 10 '13 at 21:05
3

For #2, you could say

When I got out of the car, I saw a very fast car ahead, coming towards me.

"Ahead" locates the very fast car (its location in front of you). "coming towards me" is a separate fact and not related to the location.

For #3, "forward" is correct, but you could also say

Can you please move toward me a bit, so I won't have to talk so loud.

For this situation it seems more natural to say it this way. "so" is necessary in both to connect the phrases.

For #1, "front" is correct, as it states a location in the place.

So in general:
Front is a location not relative to the speaker or subject (unless otherwise specified, such as "in front of me").
Ahead is a location in front of the speaker or subject.
Forward is a direction of movement.

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