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In this phrase: 尾班車開出前5分鐘, is meant to signify “5 minutes before the departure of the last train”.

I find the structure a bit strange for me. In my mind, I would have thought of something like: 尾班車開出5分鐘前.

I am familiar with the structure: “event 之前” to mean “before the event”, but i am unsure how to create a phrase with added modifiers like time or place.

Please provided some insights.

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  • This phrase is the simplified version of "在尾班車開出之前的5分鐘内". May 13 at 5:46

3 Answers 3

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Both the two sentences "尾班車開出前5分鐘" and "尾班車開出5分鐘前" are fine with the former less prone to misconception. The listener could have missed "前" in the latter sentence when in a hurry, then the sentence becomes "尾班車開出5分鐘~*#@", and he can be late by 5 minutes. :)

The equivalent English sentences:

  • 尾班車開出前5分鐘 - 5 minutes prior to the departure of the bus.

  • 尾班車開出5分鐘前 - 5 minutes before to the departure of the bus.

Essentially, there is no difference.

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尾班車開出5分鐘前 has 歧义: it has another reading as before the last bus has departed for 5 mins. This problem is created because different possible syntactical analyses lead to different semantic meanings. 開出5分鐘|前 is possible (more natural), so is 開出|5分鐘前.

However, if you change 前 to 后, it works. 尾班車開出5分鐘后 has no 歧义 because 開出5分鐘|后 (after the bus departed for 5 mins) and 開出|5分鐘后 (5 mins after the bus departed) leads to the same meaning.

This structure of 尾班車開出前5分鐘 is better since it has no 歧义 and also the reason brought up by @r13. 前 is more emphasized and less likely to miss.

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  1. 尾班車開出前(的)[5分鐘] --> [the five minutes] before the last train departs

  2. 尾班車開出(的)[5分鐘前] --> [at five minutes before] the last train departs

#1 describes the time period 5分鐘 (the five minutes) --> how long before the last train departs

#2 describes the exact time 5分鐘前 (at five minutes before)

Similarly:

  1. 尾班車開出後(的)[5分鐘] --> [the five minutes] after the last train departed

  2. 尾班車開出(的)[5分鐘後] --> [at five minutes after] the last train departed

#3 describes the time period 5分鐘 (the five minutes) --> how long after the last train departed

#4 describes the exact time 5分鐘後 (at five minutes after)

Let me put it in context:

  • 在尾班車開出前的5分鐘內 車門一直開著 -- During the 5 minutes before the last train leaves, the doors stay open

  • 在尾班車開出的5分鐘前 車門才打開 -- Doors opened 5 minutes before the last train left.

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