Prima che + subjunctive: Italian grammar lesson

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Key Takeaways

Unlock the secrets of Italian grammar with our guide on “prima che” vs “prima di”! Learn when to use the infinitive or the subjunctive to master the art of saying “before” like a true Italian. 🇮🇹✨

  • Infinitive vs Subjunctive: Use prima di with an infinitive for actions (e.g., prima di uscire – before going out), but switch to prima che plus subjunctive for statements (e.g., prima che tu esca – before you go out).
  • Temporal Conjunction: Remember, prima che is a temporal conjunction showing anteriority. It’s your go-to when combining sentences where one action precedes another.
  • Subjunctive Mood: Always follow prima che with the subjunctive mood, whether it’s present, imperfect, or past. It’s non-negotiable in Italian grammar!
  • Present Subjunctive: Use the present subjunctive for current or future actions that haven’t happened yet (e.g., prima che inizi – before it starts).
  • Past Subjunctive: When referring to actions that could have happened earlier, use the past subjunctive (e.g., prima che uscissi – before you left).
  • Other Conjunctions: Don’t forget, prima che isn’t alone. Other conjunctions like a meno che, sebbene, and nel caso che also demand the subjunctive.

Quick facts

When should you use "prima di" in Italian?

Use "prima di" before an infinitive verb to indicate an action occurring before another, such as "Mettiti la giacca prima di uscire" (Put your jacket on before going out).

How does "prima che" differ from "prima di"?

"Prima che" requires the subjunctive mood and is used when one action must happen before another, as in "Prima che tu esca ti devo dire una cosa" (Before you go out, I need to tell you something).

What mood follows "prima che"?

"Prima che" is always followed by the subjunctive mood, whether in present, past, or imperfect tenses.

Can you give an example of "prima che" in the present tense?

An example is "Spero di arrivare prima che inizi a piovere" (I hope to arrive before it starts raining).

What is an example of "prima che" in the past tense?

A past tense example is "Ci sarebbe piaciuto arrivare prima che uscissi" (We would have liked to get here before you left).

Are there other Italian conjunctions requiring the subjunctive?

Yes, there are several, including "a meno che," "sebbene," and "nel caso (che)."

How is "a meno che" used with the subjunctive?

"A meno che" (unless) is used with the subjunctive, like in "Non fidarti del suo parere, a meno che non sia un medico" (Don't trust his opinion unless he is a doctor).

What is an example of "sebbene" with the subjunctive?

"Sebbene avesse più di cinquant'anni, vinse la gara" (Although she was over 50, she won the competition) demonstrates "sebbene."

How is "nel caso (che)" used in a sentence?

"Nel caso (che)" (in case) is used with the subjunctive, as in "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).

What does "anteriority" mean in the context of "prima che"?

"Anteriority" indicates that the action of one sentence happens before the action in another, crucial for using "prima che" correctly.

My Thoughts

Prima che or prima di?

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.

How to use 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, imperfect or past.

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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?

  • 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.

Do other conjunctions 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 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.

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

How do you use "prima" in Italian?

The Italian word "prima" translates to before in English. It can be used in conjunction with either the preposition "che" or any form of the preposition "di" (e.g. del, dello, della, dei, degli, delle).

Does "prima che" take subjunctive?

It is important to note that the temporal conjunction "prima che" is always accompanied by the subjunctive mood in any tense, be it present, future, or past. The subjunctive mood is used to express actions that may or may not happen, such as wishes, hopes, demands, or doubt.

Italian word of the day
l’influenza
Example
Hai la febbre! Sì, mi è venuta l’influenza.
You have a fever! Yes, I got influenza.
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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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