Before a specific time with "yiqian"
As well as talking about the past in general, you can use 以前 (yǐqián) to talk about things that happened before a specific time.
Time / Verb + 以前 ，⋯⋯
The time can be a specific time, or an action (technically, "when the action was done").
- 吃饭 以前 ，你 洗 手 了 吗？Did you wash your hands before eating?
- 睡觉 以前 ，不要 吃 东西。Don't eat anything before you go to sleep.
- 两 年 以前 ， 你 认识 他 吗？ Did you know him two years ago?
- 星期五 以前 ，你 要 做 完 这些 工作。You need to finish this work before Friday.
- 上 大学 以前，你 来 过 上海 吗？ Before you went to college, did you ever come to Shanghai?
- 结婚 以前 ，你 应该 先 买 房子。Before getting married, you should first buy a house.
- 二十 年 以前，这里 是 一 个 公园。Twenty years ago, this was a park.
- 几 个 月 以前 ，他们 分手 了。They broke up a few months ago.
- 毕业 以前，我 要 找到 工作。I need to find a job before graduation.
- 当 总统 以前，Obama 没有 白 头发。Before he became the president, Obama didn't have white hair.
Note that this use of 以前 (yǐqián) can also be shortened to 前 (qián).
- After a specific time
- Expressing "before" in general with "yiqian"
- Before and after with "zhiqian" and "zhihou"
Sources and further reading
- HSK Standard Course 1 (pp. 85) →buy
- Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide (pp. 260-1) →buy
- Boya Chinese Elementary Starter 2 (博雅汉语初经起步篇) (pp. 11-12) →buy