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Korean Language Bank: 전에
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Time is a very important part of our lives. We use time a lot in our daily conversations and we have a lot of different ways to talk about it. Korean is no different and one of the ways to talk about time is with 전에. This little word will allow you to easily talk about previous events.

The Korean time expression 전에, which is based on the Hanja 前 [전] with the particle -에, is a pattern which expresses that something happened in the past, before a vaguely defined period. As such you can use it with all kinds of words. You can even use it with verbs. However, you will then have to nominalize the verb with -기 first. Although that isn’t necessarily done with 하다 verbs. With 하다 verbs, you can just as easily drop the 하다 and just use the remaining noun with little to no difference in meaning.

The difference in meaning between 시 and 시간, etc. 

There is an important difference in meaning between 시 전에 and 시간 전에. When you use 시 전에, you express something happens before that specific point in time (세 시 전에 = before 3 ‘O clock). However, 시간 전에 expresses something happens an hour before relative to when you say it (한 시간 전에 = an hour ago). Keep this in mind.

An example:

가: 생일 파티 전에 뭐 하고 싶어요?

나: 롯데월드타워에서 쇼핑할래요.

A: What do you want to do before your birthday party?

B: I’d like to go shopping at Lotte World Tower.

How To Use

The time expression 전에 is a rather simple expression as far as Korean grammar goes. With nouns, you needn’t worry about anything. You simply write it behind the noun you want to indicate that occurs before what you express in the second clause. However, when you use it with a verb, keep in mind you need to nominalize the verb with -기 first, creating -기 전에. This is all you need to keep in mind when it comes to this Korean time expression.

Lastly, the antonym of this expression is the expression 후에.

Korean Language Bank Overview: 전에
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Korean Language Bank Overview: 전에
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