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  Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde (February 1, 2009)

Ago or Before?

Although it may seem that the two words ago and before have identical meanings, they actually mean quite different things.

To use ago correctly, remember that it means a certain time before the present (counted back and including a time period). So, we say, "I met my teacher five years ago."

To use before correctly, remember that it means at a certain time that occurred before another time. So, we say, "I met my teacher at the PALC in 1996, some years before I met my Canadian wife."

Remember also that before can also be used as a conjunction or a preposition. For example, "He said a prayer before he went to bed." (conjunction) and "I like to go to bed before midnight." (preposition)

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