Difference between 'In Front of' and 'Opposite'

Important distinctions between these prepositions

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The two prepositions "in front of" and "opposite" are often confused in English. If you find that you have difficulty determining when to use either term or phrase, study the explanation below to help you or your students master how to use each, as well as related synonyms, correctly. "In front of" and "opposite" are both prepositions of place, which tell you where something is located.

In front of

"In front of" refers to objects and people who are ahead of something or someone else.

In other words, "in front of" refers to a progression from back to front. Someone who is in front of you is one place or space farther ahead. The antonym of "in front of" is "behind," as these examples show:

  • There are 50 people in front of us in this line. I hope I get a ticket.
  • The books are placed in front of the students on their desks.

In the first sentence, the 50 people all have places that are ahead of "us" in line. In the second, the books are directly in front of each student, likely on top of each desk.

Opposite

"Opposite" refers to something that is facing another object. In other words, "opposite" refers to two objects or people who are looking at each other. The main difference between "in front of" and "opposite" is that the former refers to placement in a sequence, whereas the latter refers to things that face each other. Two synonyms can be used for "opposite"—facing and across from, as these examples demonstrate:

  • My house is opposite David's house.
  • The bank is opposite the supermarket on 5th Avenue.

You could rephrase the first sentence as: My house is across from David's house. You might reword the second as: The bank is across from the supermarket on 5th Avenue.

Opposite in Other Uses

For English-language learners, it can be helpful to understand the meaning of opposite in other words and phrases.

These words and phrases may be confusing to those learning English, but they need not be intimidating. For example, in the terms:

  • Anticlimax
  • Antiaircraft
  • Antiseptic

The prefix—which also means "in front of"—"anti" refers to the opposite, as follows:

  • An anticlimax is the opposite of a climax.
  • An antiaircraft weapon is a weapon that is opposite of (and used against) an aircraft.
  • An antiseptic is a medicine that is the opposite of something that is septic (diseased or infected); in other words, it is used to fight against a disease or infection.

The term "opposite" can also mean the prefix "un" in certain words such as:

  • Unfinished
  • Unskilled
  • Ungraceful
  • Unfriendly

The "un" prefix indicates that each word means the "opposite" of the indicated term. So:

  • An unfinished work is the "opposite" of a finished one. You can also say that the work is not finished.
  • An unskilled laborer is the opposite of a worker who does possess specific skills.
  • An ungraceful dancer is the opposite of a graceful ballerina.
  • An unfriendly person is the opposite of a friendly acquaintance.