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πρίν with infinitive: posteriority (‘before’)


πρὶν ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι τρὶς ἀπαρνήσῃ με.

‘Before the cock has turned three times, you will betray me.’ ( )

The infinitive, preceded by πρίν ‘before’, signals posteriority as a satellite. The main clause is usually affirmative.

Lexical usage

Besides πρίν the following posterior conjunctions also exist: πρὶν ἤ, πάρος (Hom.), πρότερον ἤ and πρόσθεν ἤ ‘earlier than’.

Translation tips

When πρίν is used with the infinitive, only the translation 'before' is possible.

Historical background

In Homer (who also uses πάρος beside πρίν) the infinitive is the normal construction, whether the main clause is affirmative or negative.


πρότερον or πρόσθεν can anticipate πρίν in the main clause, as can other adverbs, such as πάροιθεν. Attic also has the expression φθάνω ... πρίν. Even compound verbs with the prefix προ- can anticipate πρίν.
In Homer the identical adverb πρίν can serve as a signal word.

Example Sentences: 

πρὶν οὖν τιν᾽ ἀνδρῶν ἐξοδοιπορεῖν στέγης

ξυνάπτετον λόγοισιν

Take counsel together before one of the men leaves his house. ֍

πάλαι γάρ τοι, πρὶν καὶ ὑμᾶς ἐλθεῖν, ἐγὼ τοῖς παροῦσι πολλὰ ἐπεδειξάμην

For long ago, before you arrived here, I had already proven many things to those who were present. ֍

καὶ πρίν γε τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ φανερὰν γενέσθαι κύουσαν ἐβασίλευεν.

Before the pregnancy of his brother's wife became apparent, he ruled as king.

πρὶν λέγειν, ὑμᾶς τοδὶ ἐπερήσομαί τι μικρόν

Before I say it, I will ask you to tell something small.