- 25 May 2016
I've been learning Japanese for a while, and these 2 characters confuse me. They both seem to mean (before) yet are still used in different contexts? Can someone help clarify please?
前 in front of something or before something
先 on the other/far side of something
The confusion comes from things like 先月 or 先週, which from an English perspective we would view as talking about being "born before" or the week before this one. That works if you envision a timeline you are looking at from past-present-future.
with your starting frame of reference being the @ mark.
A is before B. This is an absolute relation. Viewed from anywhere on the line, A is always said to be before B.
先 is a relative reference. Things can run in either direction on the timeline and everything is relative to the speaker's position on it.
Viewed from @:
Viewed from C:
So just remember that 前 is an absolute reference (doesn't change with viewpoint) and 先 is a relative reference (always depends on viewpoint).
Note that 先 can mean "last/in the near past" when it's not modified by any attributive phrase/clause.
先の日曜日: the last Sunday
この先の日曜日: Sunday in the future
These two 先 have different pitch accents. The former 先 is type 2 /サキ]/, i.e., the accent is on the second mora, and the latter is type 0 /サキ=/, i.e., flat. The former one has the same function as 先月 or 先週, as Mike-san mentioned. Thus, この前の日曜日 / 先の日曜日and この先の日曜日 are opposite in meaning.
Yes, both mean "the last Sunday". 先の sounds more classical/less colloquial.Do この前の日曜日 and 先の日曜日 mean the exact same thing?
Yes, it depends on what その refers to.If so could you say その前の日曜日 to mean a Sunday sometime previous to the last one? I'm guessing the context would imply which one you were talking about.