The basic structure we use to say “before” is:

【Subsequent Action】まえに【Prior Action】

Both the subsequent and prior actions will be independent clauses and thus end, like all sentences, in a verb. The verb for the subsequent action must be the present tense dictionary form. This is a little confusing for English-speakers because in English we put each clause in the tense corresponding to the timing of the action relative to the present. In other words, we would say:

Before I went to work I bought some cigarettes.

In Japanese, however, the tense of the first clause is independent from the tense of the latter.

Before I go to work I will drink coffee.
Before I went to work I drank coffee.

As a native English speaker there is an innate desire to say:


Unfortunately, this is not correct.

Turn off the lights before leaving the house.
Look left and right before crossing the street.
Please come back home before it gets dark.

For nouns we need to use the possessive particle, の.

Please make sure you call before 9am.
Before the seminar please register your name at the reception.
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