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They both mean "before," right? But does one refer to "time," and the other to "space?" And am I using them correctly in the following translations of popular American songs?

First, from Guys and Dolls:

VORHER, war ich niemals verliebt,
Jetzt liebe ich nur dich,
Von heute bis Ewigkeit.

The second one comes from the Sound of Music (second verse of the song)

Dann stehst du hier, VORNE mich,
Verliebt an mich.
Ob du sollst oder nicht.

Then here you are, standing there, Loving me. Whether or not, you should.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

"Vorne" actually means "in front", not "before".

The second example you quote is grammatically incorrect in a number of ways. The original:

For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should

I'd translate that as:

Denn hier bist du, stehst da und liebst mich
Ob du solltest oder nicht

It doesn't actually say "You stand before me" in the orginal song you linked, but if you wanted to say that, it would be "Du stehst vor mir."

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"Before" can mean "in front,"at least in English. It's usually a "time" reference, but can also be used for "space." Now I think that the difference is that English uses the same word for both, whereas German uses different FORMS of (basically) the same word. If "Vorne" means "in front," it seems to be the right word. Because Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews were standing face-to-face when they sang that song. –  Tom Au Jul 19 '11 at 15:31
2  
@Tom: Then it should still be "vor mir" an not "vorne mich". The latter is indeed ungrammatical. –  Hendrik Vogt Jul 19 '11 at 15:58
2  
Tom, "vorne"can mean "standing in front", as in, in the front of the room or the crowd, but NOT "standing in front of someone," as in, facing them. English doesn't really make that distinction, and I'm not sure how to explain it any better, I'm sorry. But in the context of that song, you most definitely can't use that word. –  Cass Jul 19 '11 at 18:28
    
@cassandrex: Good comments, both of you. Thanks. –  Tom Au Jul 19 '11 at 18:40

"Vorher" refers to time and "vorne" to space.
Here are two illustrations:
Einen Fuß nach vorne setzen: to move a foot forward
Vorher wußte ich das nicht: I didn't know that before.

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So I was right? And did I use them properly in the two passages? –  Tom Au Jul 19 '11 at 15:13
    
@Georges: I UPvoted you. Any downvote came from someone else. –  Tom Au Jul 19 '11 at 18:38
    
Tom, thank you; I never thought it was you who downvoted me. Actually my comment was a mess, because it mixed up a remark to you and one to the downvoter, saying that I wouldn't change my answer unless he gave me a valid objection . I'll erase it: it only brings confusion. I am sorry to have been so obscure that you thought I was accusing you of downvoting me (which by the way is perfectly legitimate!) –  Georges Elencwajg Jul 19 '11 at 21:36
    
I agree with you a hundred percent, Takkat: if people with your mastery of German are kind enough to take the time to check or write translations, it is indeed invaluable. [ Takkat's remark is about my now erased comment in which I explained that I hadn't checked Tom's translation and would in general leave translations ( or checkings thereof) to the the users here who are native speakers with incredibly brilliant command of German in all its aspects.] –  Georges Elencwajg Jul 19 '11 at 22:06
    
@Georges: Note that the spatial analogue of "vorher" would be "davor" and not "vorne". Cassandrexx has already remarked that in his/her answer. –  Stefan Walter Jul 21 '11 at 0:24

I guess I am a bit late but as it's going to be people with the same question stumbling upon this board, I will add what I have to say ( I am a native German and a German teacher - just to boost my credibility):

Vorher is referring to time. It is never used in context of location. You can answer the question with When?, in reply to a person saying "vorher". Vorher always refers to some other events. When you say vorher people need to have an anchor. If that is missing, the sentence sounds weird.

Example:

Ich gehe ins Bett. Vorher putze ich mir die Zähne.

So you should think of vorher as a "before that" and if you don't know what "that" is, you shouldn't use vorher. Thus the usage in the example of Tom does not sound right to me. I would suggest to use "zuvor" or "noch nie". "Vorher" makes it sound a bit pathetic.

As far as the difference between vor and vorn is concerned, I'd like to refer you to my blog post. It's about "hinter vs. hinten" but the same explanation holds for "vor and vorne".

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Welcome to the site. An upvote to get you going. –  Tom Au Feb 23 '12 at 14:03

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