1. Leicester is seven points ahead of Tottenham.

  2. Leicester is seven points ahead before Tottenham.

Which sentence does better express the fact that the club from Leicester leads the Premier League by a margin of seven points.

  • 1
    Leicester is seven points ahead of Tottenham. Apr 27, 2016 at 11:58
  • Also, Leicester leads by a margin of seven points. Apr 27, 2016 at 12:22
  • For some reason, when referring to things like scores, we only say ahead (in any dialect of English that I am aware of). Before can refer to physical position ("he stood before the court") or time ("we have to get to the shop before it closes") but when speaking of scores or rankings, it always seems to be ahead.
    – stangdon
    Apr 27, 2016 at 14:01
  • 1
    @J.R. - I should have been a little clearer, I didn't mean that when referring to scores, we only ever say "ahead", I meant that we only use "ahead" as opposed to "before". I notice both of the sources you quote are UK sources - both "over" and "in front of" sound odd to this Northeastern US English speaker. We do say "He scored over 1000 points in his career", which is a good point to make, but "The Kings are three points over the Bearcats" sounds very odd to me.
    – stangdon
    Apr 27, 2016 at 15:28
  • 2
    @Rob - before can mean "in front", too (as in, "The problem before us is a tricky one").
    – J.R.
    Apr 28, 2016 at 1:47

3 Answers 3


I would say sentence 1.

Leicester is seven points ahead of Tottenham.

by using ahead, it is very clear that Leicester has more points than Spurs (Tottenham). So why use before in addition to ahead? It seems like an unnecessary emphasis on the fact that Tottenham are well behind the league topper.

  • 2
    It seems strange to ask, "Why use before instead of ahead?" If someone doesn't know which preposition is used by convention, then they don't know. I realize it generally isn't; however, the word before could be used it and it would fit the definition just fine. Leicester is seven points in front of Tottenham sounds quite normal to me, and one definition of before is "in front of."
    – J.R.
    Apr 27, 2016 at 14:17

"X is ahead of Y" means that X is in front of Y, relative to a goal they both seek.


If "." in that diagram equals a stride, then X is three strides ahead of Y.

If "." in the diagram equals a point, then X is three points ahead of Y.

There is an underlying locative/spatial metaphor or figure even when dealing with something abstract, like numerical points.

The of in ahead of establishes the locus to which ahead is relative. The object of the preposition is the locus.

The person standing in line in front of me is ahead of me.


You would not use ahead before together like that. You could say

Leicester is seven points before Tottenham.

but as mentioned it's not generally done and would get you odd looks and might not even get the meaning across. The problem is that simply saying before refers to the relative location between the two objects, but does not specify in which direction. If we look at the league table for example, Liecester will be before Tottenham in the standard up to down reading, but if we were instead to look at the teams in order of points Tottenham would be before Liecester.

It might seem that in front of has the same problem, but while the two are often synonymous there is an implication of order saying in front of that does not exist in before. An announcer giving race positions could theoretically start at the back and say something like,

As we leave the pack we come up on Runner 2, before getting to our race leader Runner 1

But would use in front in the same way. Because even in that direction, Runner 2 is behind Runner 1 by the nature of the way they are facing. That implied direction that comes with ahead, in front of, or on top of, is the bit that makes them work while before does no.

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