avant/devant

What’s the difference between avant and devant?

It’s easy to mix up the French prepositions avant and devant. Although they look and sound similar, one is a preposition of time and one is a preposition of place. Read on to learn which is which, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

Example

Monsieur Dupuit est devant sa maison.

Il veut arroser ses belles fleurs avant la tombée de la nuit.

avant

The preposition avant is a preposition of time: it tells us when something happened in relation to something else and equates to the English before.

Examples:
Si nous nous dépêchons, nous serons rentrés avant l’orage.If we hurry up, we’ll get home before the storm hits.
Demain, Jean-Baptiste doit se lever très tôt. Il va donc essayer de se coucher avant 22 heures.Tomorrow, Jean-Baptiste has to get up very early, so he’s going to try and go to bed before 10pm.

devant

The preposition devant is a preposition of place; it tells us where something or someone is located in relation to something else and equates to the English in front of.

Examples:
Julie attend Mathilde devant le cinéma.Julie is waiting for Mathilde in front of the cinema.
Passe devant moi, tu marches plus vite.Walk in front of me, you walk quicker.

To learn more about this grammar point, check out our section devoted to prepositions in French grammar. To learn about other confusing word pairs, try our pages on an/année or visiter/rendre visite.