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For example, if I wanted to say the library is in front of the dorm, would it be: 图书馆在宿舍的前面

Or using the B的location是A pattern, would it be: 宿舍的前面是图书馆

I just get a little confused when using location words like front and behind. When I use actual directions it makes sense.

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The two sentences emphasize different points. For "图书馆在宿舍的前面?", the focus is on 图书馆, you want to know where the library is; however for "宿舍的前面是图书馆?" the focus is 宿舍的前面, so the listener would think you just want to know what is in front of the dorm. –  Stan Mar 9 at 16:00
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What exactly is your question? –  AMorrise Mar 9 at 19:48
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I think the effect is no different than in English: the library is in front of the dorm vs in front of the dorm there is the library. Use the former when someone's asking where's the library?, the latter when someone's asking what's near the dorm?. –  congusbongus Mar 9 at 21:57
    
@AlexMorrise The question is which of the two exampless given should be used if one were to say: the library is in front of the dorm. It's not clear that this is the question due to the OP's confusing punctuation and paragraphing usage. –  deutschZuid Mar 11 at 22:30
    
This is not a question in my eyes. –  Ave Maleficum Mar 11 at 23:59

4 Answers 4

in terms of grammar, both sentences are ok. but the two sentences emphasize different points. i'll put these two sentences in dialogues of English so that you can get a better understanding.

For 图书馆在宿舍的前面: -Where's the library? -The library is in front of the dorm. (This is probably what you want in your case, emphasizes the location of the library-WHERE)

For 宿舍的前面是图书馆: -What's in front of the dorm? -The library (is in front of the dorm). (Emphasizes it is the library that lies in front of the dorm-WHAT)

-native speaker here, hope this help :)

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The meaning of you sentence depends on context.

If somebody was lost and asks you for direction, say "图书馆在宿舍的前面" usually mean that he/she will reach the dorm before the library. In this case, “前面” means from the current location (and following some path), somewhere is closer than somewhere else.

If you are showing a map to somebody (or you want to describe the map in your mind), use "图书馆在宿舍的前面" will then require some prior definition of "前面". As another answer suggested, one possibility is use the direction of the front door.

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This makes sense if both buildings' front doors face each other.

If the situation is that you need to describe a direction using 前面 or 后面,you have to first define there's the front and back of that particular building.

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Both way are grammatically correct.

Depending on which item is what you want to highlight, you may choose a different way to present it.

If you want to highlight the location of the library, you would want to say "The library is located in front of the dorm" or "There is a library in front of the dorm". Which directly translates in Chinese "图书馆在宿舍的前面". The subject here is library.

If you want to highlight what's in front of the dorm, you would want to say "宿舍的前面是图书馆". The subject here is dorm.

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