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Using 'Antes'

Adverb Frequently Means 'Earlier' or 'Before'


Antes is a common adverb used to indicate that something happens earlier or before something else.

In its simplest usage, antes can stand alone to mean "earlier":

  • ¿Cómo no lo vi antes? How did I not see it earlier/before?
  • Yo quiero llegar antes también. I also want to arrive earlier.
  • No sé si comieron antes o no. I don't know if they ate earlier or not.

In context, antes can sometimes be translated as "first":

  • Antes voy a celebrar. First I am going to celebrate.
  • Busco enamorarme pero antes quiero encontrar a la persona ideal. I am looking to fall in love, but first I want to find the perfect person.

Perhaps the most common use of antes is in the phrase antes de followed by a noun or an infinitive functioning as a noun:

  • Piensa antes de hablar. Think before speaking.
  • Es ilegal a ponerse afuera la basura antes de la mañana del día de colección. It is illegal to put the garbage outside before the morning of collection day.
  • El mundo era mejor antes del teléfono celular. The world was better before the cell phone.
  • Los que vinieron antes de mí eran muy inteligentes. Those who came before me were very intelligent.
  • Sabemos que quiere ver muestras de nuestros productos antes de comprar. We know you want to see samples of our products before buying.

A common variation of this is the phrase antes de que, which is typically followed by a verb in the subjunctive mood. The phrase is sometimes shortened to antes que:

  • El plomo puede hacerle daño a su bebé antes de que nazca. Lead can hurt your baby before she is born.
  • Tenemos que estar preparados antes de que nieve. We need to be prepared before it snows.
  • ¿Tenían conocimiento los chinos de la existencia de América antes de que Colón la descubriese? Did the Chinese know about the existence of America before Columbus discovered it?
  • Tu misión es apagar el fuego antes que llegue a la ciudad. Your mission is to put out the fire before it reaches the city.

Antes also is used in a few set phrases:

  • antes bien (to express a contrast with what has been said) — No nos hacemos mejores cuando ocultamos nuestros defectos; antes bien, nuestro valor moral aumenta con la sinceridad. We don't improve ourselves when we hide our defects; on the contrary, our moral value grows with sincerity.
  • antes lo posible (as soon as possible) — Lo ideal es que este sistema se implemente lo antes lo posible. The ideal is that this system be implemented as soon as possible.
  • de antes (in the past) — Los muchachos de antes no usaban gomina. Boys didn't used to use hair gel.
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