Difference Between Before and Prior

Before vs Prior

Before and prior are words that are used interchangeably in English language to indicate an event that took place in advance, earlier, or previously. In fact, whenever we need a word to indicate the fact of an ‘earlier than’ event, we make use of either before or prior to. Is there any difference between the two words or is it a matter of personal preference? Let us find out in this article.


Before is an antonym of after and it is used very commonly to refer to events that took place earlier than or previously in a timeline. ‘Before and after’ is a phrase that is used for differences in the symptoms of patients as well as differences in the appearance of a man or a woman after taking a treatment or after doing some exercises. Take a look at the following sentences to understand the meaning and usage of before.

• Please take your gift before leaving

• The train had left before I reached the station

• The sun was shining brightly before it started to rain

• The world was not united in its war against terror before 9/11


Something or someone that exists or comes before in time or order is referred to as prior. Prior is an adjective that means former or previous. This becomes clear in the following sentence.

Do you have any prior experience?

If this is a question that an employer asks to a job aspirant, it means he desirous to know if the applicant has any previous experience of the work that is expected of him.

If a person says he has got prior permission, it means he has obtained permission in advance or previously.

You cannot ask us to evict the place without any prior notice. In this sentence, it becomes clear that if a notice has not been served in advance, the place cannot be cleared of people living on it.

When prior is used in the sense of previously or earlier than, it is always used as prior to.

India was divided into princely states prior to 1947

• The authorities planned careful eviction of people 3 days prior to the predicted Tsunami date

• Prior to becoming the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a Hollywood actor

What is the difference between Before and Prior?

• Prior to is same as before and there is no difference between the two.

• Prior is an adjective that means previous when used alone as in prior appointment or prior experience.

• There is nothing similar to ‘prior’ to be used the word after. No one says posterior to in place of after. This is to say that prior to is more pompous than before and is a matter of personal preference only.