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It seems to me that より has virtually no meaning when used as shown below.

Consider these:

Please come before five O'clock:

  • 五時前に来てください

  • 五時より前に来てください

Please come after five O'clock:

  • 五時後に来てください (*ungrammatical as observed by sawa)

  • 五時より後に来てください

(Question) What does より add to the sentence? What additional nuance is there? And why is omission of より acceptable for 五時前 but not 五時後?

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1 Answer 1

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より has an important role. It means "from", but in languages like English, the word for "than" is morphologically distinct from the word "from". Don't think of an extra より being added but think that より is omitted in the examples without it. And in fact, 五時後 is ungrammatical.

As for why 五時前 is grammatical whereas 五時後 is not, I guess that it is because it is much more frequent to ask someone to come a little bit before a whole-hour time (to be ready for something) rather than a little bit after a whole-hour time. Thence, it is likely that expressions in the form 五時前 had more chance to make it into a fixed expression.

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What about 五時の後に..? –  gibbon Apr 24 '12 at 20:10
    
@gibbon That is ungrammatical. –  sawa Apr 24 '12 at 20:50
    
I have revised my question to also ask about why omission of より is acceptable for 五時前 but not 五時後. –  Flaw Apr 25 '12 at 2:52
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Maybe because we already have the expression 五時過ぎ to mean 'a bit after five'?? –  Choko Apr 25 '12 at 16:24

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