後 & 前 always trips me up!

Just a quick rant about these two:

  • 後 (Behind, After, Back, Later)
  • 前 (Front, Before)

I remember the behind and front. But in my mind behind means before and front means after, the opposite of how this has it. No matter how many times I tell myself it’s the opposite, I still revert back to my original thinking.

For example: 以後, which is afterwards, I always type previously. Because it’s since + behind, which to me means is previously.

This is because in my head I picture a timeline

Earlier <-------- X -------- Y -------- Z --------> Later

X is behind Y, therefore it is before it in time.
Z is in front of Y, therefore it is after it in time.

This makes sense to me. Turns out the Japanese think otherwise :joy:

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No they don’t. They use exactly the same metaphor as English.

Before (etymology “by fore” like in foreground) means “in front of” as well as “earlier”. Same as 前

After means “behind” as well as “later”. Same as 後

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Think of it like a line/queue. If someone is in front of you, they go before you. If someone is behind you, they go after you. It’s basically the same in Japanese and English and it’s very consistent if you use that perspective.

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You have all these choices before you… Which do you choose?

Basically what seanblue said.

If someone is behind you in line they get served after you. They are further back in the line. They will be served later than you.

If someone is in front of you, they will be served before you.

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I’m not reading this to avoid messing myself up because I’m scared your reason will make sense. Good luck, practice makes perfect, and it might help to write it out both the kanji and English meanings. :smiley:

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I understand the reasoning behind the way the did it. My rant is this doesn’t fit with how I usually use the word.

The line/queue metaphor only works if the point of reference is in the queue and has a predetermined direction. That’s not how I naturally think of it, my point of reference is outside of the queue.

Here is a sentence that matches the way I think about it:

“The reasoning behind this decision.”
Is saying
“The reasoning happened before the decision was made”

In this case, behind == before. This is how I normally use it. The queue metaphor is the only example I can think of that where it’s not the case, whereas I can think a few different examples that match the way I think.

Because of this, I would never use it like the queue example. As in would never say “You are in front of me, so you can go before me”, it sounds weird. I would say “You are in front of me, so you can go first”.

Eitherway, it is what it is. So I guess I’ll just hav to suck it up.

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I don’t think that “behind” is a chronological one, though. That’s just coincidence, no?

Dictionaries even list it as a separate meaning

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Interestingly enough, I too have a very similar problem, though in a bit different way.
We are moving forward in time. Therefore, on your scale, Z is closer to the front 前 while X is closer to the back 後 – that’s how I see it.

However, that’s not how the Japanese see it – from the Japanese perspective, when I move forward in time, X is what I encounter first, so X is the the front 前. Z – I’ll encounter afterwards, so it’s 後。

I’ve always found this a bit confusing :sweat_smile:

The way it’s phrased makes me think of you imagining Japanese people deciding the meaning of words at a conference like they’re ISO standards or something.

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It wouldn’t surprise me to be honest.

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Yeah separate meanings, but it’s the one I use the most. So it’s where my brain goes :person_shrugging:

Yep! That’s similar to the way I think about it. I did a quick search and there is a couple of other posts about these kanji as well with a similar issue. I’m glad I’m not alone :joy:

I’m realising now, I never use the word ‘before’ to mean ‘in front’ in regards to a queue setting so I can avoid the contradiction. I always use other words instead.

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I could get behind that

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I had the exact problem as you had when I started learning Japanese. I was thinking about things the same and also had a hard time wrapping my mind around it. Because it felt backwards to me.

But if my experience is anything to go by, then eventually it’ll become natural in Japanese. I don’t even think about it anymore.

So hopefully, with time, this will stop being a problem for you. :pray:

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Personally when I’m having trouble wrapping my head around things like this, reasoning in English tends to just confuse me more. So here are some WK context sentences I found that use these words, hope it helps :slight_smile:

(あと)
コウイチはドアにかぎを()けた(あと)、そのかぎを(かく)した。

Koichi locked the door and then hid the key.

この(あと)本州(ほんしゅう)()くつもりです。

After this I plan on going to Honshu.

毎週水曜日(まいしゅうすいようび)は、学校(がっこう)(あと)プールに()って泳いでいます。

Every Wednesday after school I go to the pool and swim.

(まえ)
(わたし)のせきは、(まえ)から二列目(にれつめ)でした。

My seat was in the second row. (from the front)

()(まえ)にもう一度(いちど)花見(はなみ)をしながら宴会(えんかい)がしたいなあ。

Before I die, I want to have a drinking party under the cherry blossoms one more time.

()ける(まえ)に、ドアを(たた)いてって()ったよね!?

I told you to knock on the door before opening it, didn’t I?!

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Thanks! They are great sentences

That gives me hope :grinning:

I think one of the things adding to it is the order in which they give the definitions

  • 後 - Behind, After, Back, Later

This is location, time, location, time

It’ll make more sense to me if it’s

  • 後 - Behind, Back, After, Later

That way the two locations are next to each other,
so it’s location, location, time, time.

This is whole thread is just a rant for me though. Sometimes it’s good to get the frustrations out.

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