How to Say “Before” and “After”: Italian Grammar Lesson

Lesson 41

Key Takeaways

Learn how to correctly use the Italian words prima and dopo to discuss events in time, including their combinations with function words.

  • Prima means “before” or “earlier” and can be used as an adverb, adjective, or in expressions like prima possibile.
  • Dopo means “after” or “later” and can be used as a preposition or adverb, indicating temporal succession.
  • Prima che requires the subjunctive mood, while prima di is used with infinitive verbs, nouns, or pronouns.
  • Dopo che uses the indicative mood and varies with verb tenses, while dopo di is used with personal pronouns.
  • Understanding the correct usage of prima and dopo is essential for discussing sequences, making plans, and describing routines in Italian.

Quick facts

How is "prima" used as an adverb in Italian?

"Prima" means "earlier" or "before," often without specifying what it precedes, e.g., "voglio partire prima" (I want to leave earlier).

Can "prima" function as an adjective?

Yes, "prima" can mean "the first," as in "la prima volta" (the first time).

How does "prima" express urgency?

The phrase "prima possibile" means "as soon as possible," indicating urgency.

How does "dopo" function as a preposition?

"Dopo" discusses events following another, e.g., "Dopo la lezione, vado al parco" (After the lesson, I go to the park).

How is "dopo" used with past infinitive verbs?

It can be used with past infinitive verbs, as in "Dopo essere andato in banca, ho pranzato" (After having gone to the bank, I had lunch).

What does "dopo" mean as an adverb?

As an adverb, "dopo" means "afterwards" or "later," e.g., "Ora non posso, ci vediamo dopo" (Now I can't, see you later).

How is "prima che" used with the subjunctive mood?

"Prima che" introduces a temporal clause requiring the subjunctive mood, e.g., "Voglio partire prima che faccia buio" (I want to leave before it gets dark).

When is "prima di" used?

"Prima di" is used with an infinitive verb or before nouns/pronouns, e.g., "Pettinati prima di uscire" (Brush your hair before you go out).

Does "dopo che" require the subjunctive mood?

No, "dopo che" uses the indicative mood and varies by verb tense, e.g., "Dopo che finisci metti tutto a posto" (After you finish, put everything back in order).

How is "dopo di" used with pronouns?

"Dopo di" is used with personal pronouns, e.g., "Io sono entrata dopo di loro" (I went in after them).

Audio images

Bevo il caffè prima di andare al lavoro.
Prima studiamo, dopo ci riposiamo.
Prima di cucinare, lavati le mani.
Devo finire il lavoro prima di cenare.
Prima di mangiare, devo lavarmi le mani.
Ci vediamo prima della cena.




Prima di mangiare, lavo sempre le mani.

Before eating, I always wash my hands.

Dopo la scuola, vado in palestra.

After school, I go to the gym.

Vorrei parlare con lui prima della riunione.

I would like to talk to him before the meeting.

Dopo aver finito il lavoro, possiamo uscire.

After finishing the work, we can go out.

Prima di andare a letto, leggo un libro.

Before going to bed, I read a book.

My Thoughts

Before and After in Italian

One of the first things you need to learn when studying a foreign language is how to talk about events in time. To do so, in English we use the words before and after, which, in Italian, are translated into prima and dopo.

Both prima and dopo are adverbs in Italian, but they also play other grammatical roles depending on the context.

They are relatively simple to understand and translate, but they can become tricky if you do not know which prepositions and verb tenses to use with them.

Also, as you might imagine, they are very commonly used, for discussing sequences of events, making plans, or describing routines in Italian. Therefore, you should really understand how to use them!

Bevo il caffè prima di andare al lavoro.

“Prima” and “Dopo” in Italian

“Prima” in Italian

In Italian, prima is a versatile word primarily used to indicate temporal sequences. It can be used either alone or in combination with function words, but here I want to show you its original meaning when it is not linked to anything else:

  1. As an adverb: On its own it means “earlier” or “before.” It can be used to refer to something occurring at an earlier time, often without needing to specify what it is preceding. For example, voglio partire prima (I want to leave earlier).
  2. As an adjective : It can also be used an adjective with the meaning of “the first”, used in phrases like la prima volta (the first time).
  3. Other uses: It is also used in expressions such as prima possibile (as soon as possible).

“Dopo” in Italian

Just like prima, dopo is a versatile preposition that primarily indicates temporal succession. It’s used to express the sequence of events or actions in time and can as well be used in combination with other function words. Here I listed some examples of its use alone:

  • As a particular preposition: It is most commonly used to discuss events that occur following another event. For example:

Dopo la lezione, vado al parco.

After the lesson, I go to the park.

    • It behaves as a preposition, but grammatically it is not. In this context, it can also be used directly with a verb in the past infinitive, as in:

Dopo essere andato in banca, ho pranzato.

After having gone to the bank, I had lunch.

  • As an adverb: When used as an adverb, it means “afterwards” or “later.” For example:

Ora non posso, ci vediamo dopo.

Now I can’t, see you later.

  • Other uses: In comparisons, it can be used metaphorically to mean “next in line” or “secondly” such as in ranking or ordering scenarios. For example:

Dopo Maria, lei è la studentessa più brava.

After Maria, she is the best student.

Prima studiamo, dopo ci riposiamo.

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

Combination with Function Words

“Prima che” and “Prima di”

As I mentioned before, prima can be used in combination with other functional words. Specifically, either with the conjunction che or with the preposition di and all its derivates del, dello, della, dei, degli, delle.

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Let me now explain them separately:

Voglio partire prima che faccia buio.

I want to leave before it gets dark.

Prima che tu esca, voglio dirti una cosa.

Before you go out, I want to tell you something.

Spero di arrivare prima che inizi a nevicare.

I hope I can get there before it starts snowing.

  • Prima di, instead, must be used with an infinitive verb, or it must precede nouns or pronouns. When it is used in these structures, “prima” is grammatically classified as a conjunction because it links two – or more – sentences together.

Remember, if there is a definite article before the noun you must use a preposizione articolata: del, dello, della, etc.

Pettinati prima di uscire

Brush your hair before you go out.

Ci sono io prima di te 

There is me before you.

Prima della partita siamo andati a bere una birra.

Before the match, we went for a beer.

“Dopo che” and “Dopo di”

Also dopo in Italian can be linked to “che” or “di”.

  • Unike “prima che”, dopo chedoes not require the subjunctive mood, therefore you can simply use the indicative mood of the verb. Of course, depending on what you are saying, you must use a specific verb tense: present, past, or future.

Dopo che finisci metti tutto a posto.

After you finish put everything back in order.

Dopo che sono uscita è arrivato Daniele.

After I left Daniele arrived.

Ti mancherà dopo che sarà andato via.

You will miss him after he leaves.

  • Dopo di is uses with personal pronouns only.

Io sono entrata dopo di loro.

I went in after them.

Voi siete arrivati dopo di noi.

You got here after us.

Ho preso il treno dopo di voi.

I took the train after you.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions


What are "prima" and "dopo" in Italian?

Are the equivalent of before and after and are used after prepositions and verbs.

How to use "prima che" and "prima di"?

"Prima che" introduces a temporal clause and is used with the subjunctive. While "prima di" is used with the infinitive or after nouns and pronouns.

How to use "dopo che", "dopo", and "dopo di"?

"Dopo che" uses the indicative mood while "dopo" indicates temporal clauses so is used with nouns or the past infinitive, and "dopo di" is only used with personal pronouns.

Italian word of the day
Dalla crisi, molte aziende hanno chiuso.
Because of the financial crisis, many companies shut down.
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2 Responses

    1. E’ uguale. Va bene sia “aver” sia “avere”. E’ questione di metrica. 😀

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