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I found an example sentence in japaneseclass.jp, which went as follows:

彼女は教室の前の方に立っていた

and was translated as "She was standing in front of the classroom"

I wonder if it couldn´t be just

彼女は教室の前に立っていた

And what would be the difference in meaning

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彼女は教室の前に立っていた

Yes. This can usually be translated as "She was standing in front of the classroom." though it is also possible to mean the same as below sentence.

彼女は教室の前の方に立っていた

It should rather be translated "She was standing in the front part of the classroom." The difference is that in this case, 彼女 is standing in the classroom. However, saying "in front of" sounds to me that 彼女 was standing at outside of the classroom, say, in front of a door, doesn't it?

The meaning of 前の方 depends on the context. 方 is generally "direction", and can mean relatively determined places. In this case 前の方 is like "relatively front part", which can simply be "front part."

Sometimes 方 can mean vagueness, as in

彼の車は我々の前の方を走っている。

His car is running somewhat ahead of us.

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OK, here is the issue. the first one

彼女は教室の前の方に立っていた

specifically means she was standing in-front of the classroom

The second could have a meaning of standing in front of the actual classroom (In other words outside the class room but in front of it) But also could mean standing at the front of the classroom.

彼女は教室の前に立っていた

  • I hadn´t even thought about the possibility of being "in front of the classroom, but inside of it". Thanks for helping ! – Vitor Arruda Oct 22 '16 at 14:02

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