gramática antes que nada / antes de nada

As well as regional differences in usage (antes de que being far more common in Spain), there are several factors to take into consideration when it comes to choosing between the preposition de and the conjunction que:


1) When followed by a noun or a verb in infinitive only de is possible (except in comparisons –see section 3). The infinitive is generally only used when the subjects are the same (correferencia de sujetos).

-Nos conocimos solo una semana antes de la boda — We met just a week before the wedding

→Nos conocimos solo una semana antes de casarnos — We met just a week before getting married [Same subject: ≈(nosotros) nos conocimos una semana antes de que (nosostros) nos casáramos]


 -Antes de preguntárselo, deberías consultarlo primero con su marido — Before asking her, you should check first with her husband  [Same subject]


2) When the subjects are different, (de) que +subjunctive is the standard construction; however, in spoken or informal Spanish, it is not uncommon to see the infinitive followed by a second subject (–the same as después de que).

-Quiero terminar esto antes (de) que llegue mi padre — I want to finish this before my dad gets here ['Antes de que' is by far the most common construction in Spain]

→Estaba terminando esto antes de llegar él [Informal/spoken Spanish; two subjects ('yo' & 'él')]


-Se lo conté a mi padre antes (de) que se marchara — I told my dad before he left ['Antes de que' is far more common in Spain]

→Se lo conté a mi padre antes de marcharse [Informal/spoken Spanish; two subjects ('yo' & 'mi padre')]


3) When making a comparison between two subjects (or objects), where the verb is omitted in the subordinate clause, the preposition de is not used.

-Pudiste verlo antes que yo — You were able to see it before me/ I was [Pudiste verlo antes de que lo viera yo]


-Ponte en la cola. Yo llegué antes que — Get in line. I got here before you (did) [Yo llegué antes de que llegaras tú]

-Lo han terminado antes que nosotros They've finished it before us/we have [Lo han terminado antes de que lo hayamos terminado nosotros]


-Leyó la novela antes que el libro de poemas He read the novel before the book of poems [Leyó la novela antes de leer el libro de poemas]


-Organizamos la luna de miel antes de la boda — We organized the honeymoon before the wedding

→ Organizamos la luna de miel antes que la boda [Antes de organizar la boda, organizamos la luna de miel]


4) When expressing preference, rather than order, antes que is the standard construction.1

-Prefiero emborracharme antes de hablar con él — I('d) prefer to get drunk before speaking to him [Favours interpretation of order; see preferir a/que]

Prefiero emborracharme antes que hablar con él I'd rather get drunk than speak to him [Favours the interpretation of preferance, rather than order]


-Cuando era niño, Juan prefería pasar hambre antes que comer verdura When he was a kid, Juan would go hungry rather than eat vegetables

-Me corto un brazo antes que defraudarte — I'd cut my own arm off before letting you down


5) Remember: antes (de) (que) often calls for a negative pronoun (nadie, ninguno, nada), since it is considered an 'inductor negativo', similar to the comparative (e.g. mejor que nadie).2-3

-Antes de que digas nada, quiero que sepas que te quiero — Before you say anything, I want you to know that I love you

-Siempre llega antes que nadie — He always arrives before anyone else


 6) The expression antes de/que nada is used differently in Spain to most other countries: in much of Spain, antes de nada is the standard expression used to introduce the first of a number of things one wishes to say; antes que nada, meanwhile, is used like ante todo, which roughly translates as 'first and foremost'. In other countries antes que nada is used in all cases.4

-Antes de nada/Antes que nada, (quiero daros las) gracias por venir First of all, (I'd like to) thank you all for coming [In much of Spain, 'antes de nada' is preferred when introducing the first in a number of things one wishes to say; Firstly]

Antes que nada es un buen amigo First and foremost he's a good friend [≈Primarily; ante todo]


-Antes que nada me considero europeo — I consider myself European more than anything/above all [≈Primarily; ante todo]


In Español-Avanzado articles

-La cuerda


-antes que nada / antes de nada-  subjuntivo-