You are here

πρίν with indicative or subjunctive aorist with ἄν: posteriority (‘before’)


μηδὲ δίκην δικάσῃς, πρὶν ἄμφω μῦθον ἀκούσῃς

‘Do not judge before you have heard the story of both parties.’ (Plut. )

The indicative or the aorist subjunctive with ἄν, preceded by πρίν (‘before’), signals posteriority as a satellite when the main clause is negated or has negative meaning. The indicative denotes a neutral event, the aorist subjunctive with ἄν denotes a plausible (one-off or repeatable) event.

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 a finite verbal form the translations ‘before’ or ‘until’ are possible.


πρότερον of 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.


In Attic only the conjunction πρίν ‘before’ can be used with the indicative or the subjunctive with ἄν. In Herodotus, however, πρὶν ἤ ‘sooner than’ also occurs in this construction. Outside Attic prose in particular, for example in Ionic texts, ἄν may be omitted.

Example Sentences: 

μήπω μέγ᾽ εἴπῃς πρὶν τελευτήσαντ᾽ ἴδῃς

Praise no one until you have seen him die. ֍

οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν, οὐκ ἔστι τῶν ἔξω τῆς πόλεως ἐχθρῶν κρατῆσαι, πρὶν ἂν τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ πόλει κολάσητ᾽ ἐχθρούς.

For it is impossible, wholly impossible to overcome the enemies outside the city before we overcome those within the city.

ἀλλ’ οὔποτ’ ἔγωγ’ ἄν, πρὶν ἴδοιμ’ ὀρθὸν ἔπος, μεμφομένων ἂν καταφαίην.

[translation underway]

ἄγγεος γὰρ οὐδενὸς ἅψονται πρὶν ἂν λούσωνται.

Because they won't touch a pot until they've washed themselves. [provisional translation]