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没找到满意的房子前,我「临时 / 暂时」借住在朋友家里。 (image)
标准教程HSK5上,138页

The above sentence gives an instance when both 临时 and 暂时 can be used. However, I'm confused about the time period considered in the first part.

My understanding is that the 前 implies "before, i.e. the time period is before 没找到满意的房子. Or in other words, it says this:

Before [前] I hadn't [没] found [找到] a satisfying [满意的] place [房子], ...

This is nonsensical (or a kind of double-negative), so clearly I'm missing something. If it were me writing, I'd write (a variant of) one of the following:

找到满意的房子前,…… or
没找到满意的房子时,……

Question: How do we parse the grammar of 没找到满意的房子前,……?

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  • 1
    Probably search for 羡余否定.
    – Alan Zzz
    Jun 28 at 4:06
  • Strickly to say, you are correct, but it is a common mistake that has become the norm for many Chinese speakers.
    – r13
    Jun 30 at 4:00
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没找到满意的房子前

Sorry, but this is just an idiomatic use. (在)没找到满意的房子前 means till I find a satisfying house.

找到满意的房子前 sounds more logical, but we'd say 没找到满意的房子前 more often in practice.

Other examples:

在我没想明白前,我不会做决定。// I wouldn't decide till I figure it out.

在我还没发怒前,赶紧走开!

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Suffice it to say that 没找到满意的房子前 is wrong (logically problematic). While grammar "experts" may find explanation (or excuse) for this use, it is just like

I don't have nothing to say.

in English.

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Not

before I hadn't

but: before I have

没找到满意的房子前,我「临时 / 暂时」借住在朋友家里。
In the interim, before I've found a satisfactory abode, I'll stay with a friend.

Put it in the past:

在我还没有找到满意的房子前,我是暂时借住在朋友家里的。

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The core is 找房子 and 暂住。

The star is the time that you found the house, before the star, you are in the status of "hadn't found the house", so before the star, you are 暂住朋友家。

没找到满意的房子 ...     找到了满意的房子
======================★=============》

       |        前  ← || → 后

hadn't found        found

       |        前  ← ⏱ → 后
   暂住朋友家               住自己房子

                     
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A native Chinese like I think you are totally right. 没找到满意的房子前 is an illegal phrase either in Chinese or in English.

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