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12時までに帰らなければなりません。
I must go home before 12.

寝る前に本を読みます。
Before I sleep, I read a book.

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  • First, this post may help you. You may combine the two and use it as "前までに" too. And if have specific doubts, updating the question may help yield better answers. Having said that, in the real world some people may use "12時までに" to express "no later than 12" while others mean "before 12".
    – dungarian
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 11:27
  • Am i correct? までに use with time (今週末までに、75年までに、12時までに) . and 前に use with verb Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 11:37
  • Sorry, not necessarily. There's so many factors including nuances, on which word to use. But 12時までに, 12時前に, 寝るまでに本を読みます, 寝る前に本を読みます, are all correct and carry different message. One way of thinking is までに = until, and 前に = before. I hope someone can logically explain without misleading you.
    – dungarian
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 12:42
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    まで means "by", not "until." まで (without に) means "until."
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 13:53
  • Sorry for misleading already. Should've written "までに" = "have until".
    – dungarian
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 14:48

3 Answers 3

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までに basically means "by" and it's used to mark a deadline. 12時までに~します means you may do it at 11:30 or even at 7:00. On the other hand, 12時前に~します means you do it (shortly) before 12:00, for example at 11:45, but usually not at 7:00.

寝る前に本を読みます is a natural sentence that simply describes what the speaker does at night, before sleeping. 寝るまでに本を読みます implies there is a deadline, so this sounds like the speaker must read the book before sleeping, at the latest, but he can read it during the day if he wants.

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までに

までに is the combination of particles まで and に. The first particle specifies the ending point in time (deadline), while the latter specifies the point in time where the event will take place, which may or may not coincide with the deadline. If it doesn't coincide, it happens before the deadline.

Let's look at an example:

5時までにメールします。

I will email it by 5 o'clock

By means not later than, so the email can be sent at or before 5 o'clock. The same applies for までに, hence the translation.

Let's say that the email was sent at 4 o'clock, as in the following illustration:

img1

source

The red dot represents the time at which the event took place and 5:00 the deadline. This means that the red dot is given by に and 5:00 by まで. Overall, the action took place at 5時までに.

4時メールしました。

I emailed it at 4 o'clock.

5時までは、4時メールしました。(unnatural)

Until 5 o'clock, I emailed it at 4.

5時までにメールしました。(natural)

I emailed it by 5 o'clock.

Collocations

までに follows nouns and verbs in the dictionary form.

今週の終わりまでに•••

By the end of this week...

彼女が来るまでに•••

By the time she comes...

終わり is noun being modified by 今週 and the resulting noun phrase, 今週の終わり precedes までに. 来る, a verb in the dictionary form, precedes it too.

12時 is a noun phrase, like in your example.

前に

前に is the combination of the noun 前 and the particle に. 前, when talking about time, means before. に simply marks the time especified by 前.

晩ご飯を食べ前に山田さんに電話をしました。

Before eating dinner, I called Ms. Yamada.

Note that the modifying verb is always in the dictionary form.

までに VS 前に

AまでにB can either mean that B takes places at or before A. It's usually used to mark deadlines, so it has that nuance.

A前にB can only mean that B takes place before A.

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  • There's much more about までに, but this covers what you asked for, hopefully.
    – Nameless
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 3:07
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    AまでにB can either mean that B takes places at or before A. A前にB can only mean that B takes place before A. <-- じゃあ、7時に帰る場合でも、「12時までに帰ります。」と「12時前に帰ります。」のどちらでも使えるってことですか?
    – chocolate
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 3:47
  • @Chocolate Yes, context will tell you whether AまでにB means at or before. In this case, it's most likely for it to be translated as before because, if you wanted to say that you'll exactly return at 12, you would say 12時に帰る. However, in practice, you can never really tell at what time you'll return home.
    – Nameless
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 4:15
  • I mean, AまでにB translates as by, but it most likely means before 12 o'clock in this context, so you can use A前にB too.
    – Nameless
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 4:29
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    えっ Yes ですか? 🤔 なるとさんの回答を読まれましたか? 「12時前に~」って言ったら普通は12時の少し前のことでしょう。「12時前に伺います。」って言って7時に行ったらびっくりされますよ。
    – chocolate
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 14:06
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To summarize the comments and provide an answer, these are not the same.

までに is a particle meaning "by". Thus:

暗いまでに帰らないと

"I have to be back by dark"

前に is a combination of 前 (before) and the time indicator に, thus "before":

食べる前にいつも手を洗っている

"I always wash my hands before eating"

They might sometimes be similar, for instance, you could write the first sentence as:

暗い前に帰らないと "I have to get home before it's dark"

Which has a slightly different meaning. However, in general, they are not interchangeable. The following sentence is strange:

食べるまでにいつも手を洗っている

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  • Where did you see「暗いまで」?
    – Jimmy Yang
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 3:07
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    暗いまでに 暗い前に <-- Both are unnatural/incorrect. We say 「暗くなる前に」.
    – chocolate
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 3:31

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