Word pairs: ago | before


It happened two years ago - I've seen it before - I have already finished it


We use ago with the past simple (e.g. saw, chose) and a time expression to say when in the past something happened:

  • She left two hours ago. (two hours before now)
  • We watched it some time ago. (some time before the present)
  • Joe's grandfather passed away five years ago. (five years before the present)


Before can be used with two events to say which one happened first:

  • I talked to her before she left. (I talked to her, then she left)
  • My brother was born before we moved house.

Before can also be used with the present perfect (e.g. I have seen) or the past perfect (e.g. He had broken) to communicate something happened at some point before the present:

  • I have seen him before. (at some point before now)
  • I have watched that movie before. (at some point in the past)


We can use already to say something happened earlier than we expected:

  • She already knows you are here.

Already can also be used to say something is done and does not need or should not be repeated:

  • I have already watched that movie. (I don't want to watch it again)
  • I have already had dinner; don't bring anything for me. (I don't want to eat again)
Further learning
Description Author Language
Examples using 'ago' and 'before'. English With Nick