Prima che + subjunctive: Italian grammar lesson 212

To practice this grammar topic, take Lesson 212 of Ripeti Con Me!
before with subjunctive
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Prima che… vs Prima di…

Even for advanced speakers of Italian, the subjunctive mood (il congiuntivo) can be tricky sometimes.

There are a lot of expressions in Italian that require the use of the subjunctive, and prima che (before) is one of them.

First of all, we must differentiate between prima di and prima che, which in English can both be translated as “before”.

Prima di takes the infinitive, which is the basic form of the verb, while prima che takes the subjunctive:

Prima di + infinitive

Mettiti la giacca prima di uscire.

Put your jacket on before going out.

Voglio mangiare prima di andare al cinema.

I want to eat before going to the cinema.

Prima che + subjunctive

Prima che tu esca ti devo dire una cosa.

Before you go out I need to tell you something.

Mangiamo prima che faccia buio.

Let’s eat before it gets dark.

prima che subjunctive

Prima che + subjunctive

Prima che is a temporal conjunction (congiunzione temporale), which indicates anteriority.

This means that it can be used to combine two sentences, in which the action or occurrence described in one sentence happens before the action or occurrence described in the other.

The temporal conjunction prima che is always followed by the subjunctive mood, whether in the present, future or past.

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In the first two cases (present and future), prima che is followed by the present subjunctive (congiuntivo presente), while in the past it is followed by the imperfect subjunctive (congiuntivo imperfetto).

Have a look at the examples below.

  • Present:

Spero di arrivare prima che inizi a piovere.

I hope to arrive before it starts raining.

Cuciniamo prima che arrivino i miei, no?

Let’s cook before my parents arrive, shall we?

  • Future:

Arriverò prima che tu vada a dormire.

I will get there before you go to sleep.

Marco sarà partito prima che sorga il sole.

Marco will have left before the sun comes up.

  • Past:

Ci sarebbe piaciuto arrivare prima che uscissi.

We would have liked to get here before you left.

Sandra voleva partire prima che facesse buio.

Sandra wanted to leave before it got dark.

prima che congiuntivo

Other conjunctions that require the subjunctive

Prima che is not the only Italian conjunction that requires the congiuntivo.

Here are some other common ones, with examples, so that you can at least learn to recognize them!

Non fidarti del suo parere, a meno che non sia un medico.

Do not trust his opinion, unless he is a doctor.

  • Sebbene (although)

Sebbene avesse più di cinquant’anni, vinse la gara.

Although she was over 50, she won the competition.

  • Nel caso (che) (In case)

Nel caso (che) tu non abbia voglia di cucinare, ho preparato una zuppa.

In case you don’t feel like cooking, I prepared a soup.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi, Sefano,
    Ho trovato questa lezione sulle congiunzioni/congiuntivo che mi sembre difficile da padroneggiare.
    Ho bisogno di tonnellato di pratica. Mi dispiace per gli errori.

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