Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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SUMMARY OF THE CONSTRUCTIONS OF ἕως AND OF OTHER WORDS MEANING BOTH SO LONG AS AND UNTIL ἕως so long as, while: Temporal Limit as to Duration (during the time when) 2422

Indicative, when the action of the temporal clause denotes definite duration in the present or past. The present often connotes cause (while, now that, because). The imperfect is used of past action: the main clause has the imperfect usually, but the aorist occurs (T. 5.60).


Subjunctive (present) with ἄν, when the action lies in the

a. Future, and the verb of the main clause is future indicative or an equivalent form.

b. Present, and the verb of the main clause states a present customary or repeated action or a general truth.


The present optative (of future time) is very rare: in dependence on a past tense (X. H. 5.4.37, Aristotle, Athen. Pol. 28 end); by regular assimilation ( cross2186 b) in a less vivid condition (P. Th. 155a).

ἕως until, till: Temporal Limit as to Termination (up to the time when) 2425

Indicative, of a definite present or past action. The present connotes cause. The aorist is normally used of past action: the main verb is usually imperfect, but the aorist occurs (I. 17.12).

a. Of a future action the future is very rare: X. C. 7.5.39 (ἐς ὅ Hdt. 9.58).


Subjunctive with ἄν, when the action lies in the

a. Future, and the main clause contains a verb referring to the future (except the optative without ἄν). The tense is usually the aorist: the present marks overlapping.

b. Present, and the verb of the main clause states a present customary or repeated action or a general truth.


Optative (usually aorist), when the action lies in the

a. Future, and depends on an optative with ἄν.

b. Past, and depends on a secondary tense expressing or implying indirect discourse. Here the optative represents ἄν with the subjunctive after a primary tense.

c. Past, and the verb of the main clause states a past customary or repeated action.

N.—The present optative in b is rare; the future optative occurs only in X. H. 4.4.9, where some read the aorist.


Conjunctions meaning until may have, as an implied or expressed

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antecedent, μέχρι τούτου up to the time. Thus, μέχρι τούτου Λα_σθένης φίλος ὠνομάζετο, ἕως προὔδωκεν Ολυνθον Lasthenes was called a friend (up to the time when) until he betrayed Olynthus D. 18.48.


With conjunctions meaning until, when the principal clause is affirmative, it is implied that the action of the verb of the principal clause continues only up to the time when the action of the verb of the until clause takes place. Thus, in the passage cited in 2428, it is implied that Lasthenes ceased to be called a friend after he had betrayed Olynthus.

a. When the principal clause is negative, it is implied that the action of the verb of the principal clause does not take place until the action of the until clause takes place; as in οὐ πρότερον ἐπαύσαντο ἕως τὴν πόλιν εἰς στάσεις κατέστησαν they did not stop until they divided the city into factions L. 25.26. In sentences like δεῖ μὴ περιμένειν ἕως ἂν ἐπιστῶσιν we must not wait until they are upon us (I. 4.165), by reason of the meaning of περιμένειν the action of the principal clause ceases before the action of the until clause takes place.


πρίν is construed like other conjunctions meaning until except that it takes the infinitive as well as the indicative, subjunctive, and optative.


After an affirmative clause πρίν usually takes the infinitive and means before.


After a negative clause πρίν means until, and usually takes the indicative (of definite time), the subjunctive or optative (of indefinite time).

a. The subjunctive or optative is never used with πρίν unless the principal clause is negative.

b. When the principal clause is negative, πρίν is construed like ἕως and other words for until (οὐ πρίν ἕως).


When the principal clause is affirmative, the clause with πρίν simply adds a closer definition of the time. When the principal clause is negative, πρίν defines the time as before, but the closer definition serves also as a condition that must be realized before the action of the principal clause can be realized. Thus, μὴ ἀπέλθητε πρὶν ἂν ἀκούσητε do not go away until you hear X. A. 5.7.12 (i.e. without hearing = ἐὰ_ν μὴ ἀκούσητε). Cp. οὔτε γὰρ εἰρήνην οἷόν τε βεβαία_ν ἀγαγεῖν, ἢν μὴ κοινῇ τοῖς βαρβάροις πολεμήσωμεν, οὔθ' ὁμονοῆσαι τοὺς Ἕλληνας, π ρ ὶ ν ἂν . . . τοὺς κινδύ_νους πρὸς τοὺς αὐτοὺς ποιησώμεθα neither is it possible to make a lasting peace unless we war in common against the barbarians, nor can the Greeks attain unanimity of sentiment until we encounter our perils in the front of the same enemies I. 4.173.


πρίν is used with the aorist or (less often) with the imperfect indicative only when πρίν is equivalent to ἕως until; but, when the verb of the main clause is negatived, πρίν may be translated by before or until. When πρίν must be rendered by before, it takes the infinitive.

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ταῦτα ἐποίουν πρὶν Σωκράτης ἀφί_κετο I was doing this until Socrates arrived (rare even in poetry; cp. cross2441 c).

οὐ ταῦτα ἐποίουν πρὶν Σωκράτης ἀφί_κετο I was not doing this until (or before) Socrates arrived.

ταῦτα ἐποίουν πρὶν Σωκράτην ἀφικέσθαι (not Σωκράτης ἀφί_κετο) I was doing this before Socrates arrived.


It is correct to say οὐ ποιήσω τοῦτο πρὶν ἂν κελεύσῃς, ποιήσω (or οὐ ποιήσω) τοῦτο πρὶν κελεῦσαι, but incorrect to say ποιήσω τοῦτο πρὶν ἂν κελεύσῃς.


The action of an infinitive introduced by πρίν before may or may not (according to the sense) actually take place at some time later than the action of the leading verb. The clause with πρίν signifies merely that the action of the infinitive had not taken place at the time of the leading verb.


The clause with πρίν may precede or follow the correlated clause. Cp. cross2455.


πρίν is originally a comparative adverb meaning before, i.e. sooner or formerly; and seems to be connected with πρό, πρότερον before. The adverbial force survives in Attic only after the article, as ἐν τοῖς πρὶν λόγοις in the foregoing statements T. 2.62. The adverbial and original use appears also in Homer wherever πρίν occurs with the indicative, the anticipatory (futural) subjunctive ( cross1810), or the optative with κέ. Thus, τὴν δ' ἐγὼ οὐ λύ_σω· πρίν μιν καὶ γῆρας ἕπεισιν but her I will not release; sooner shall old age come upon her A 29, οὐδέ μιν ἀνστήσεις· πρὶν καὶ κακὸν ἄλλο πάθῃσθα nor shalt thou recall him to life; sooner (before this) thou wilt suffer yet another affliction Ω 551.—From this early coördination was developed the construction of the conjunction πρίν with the finite moods; but in general only after Homer, who never uses the indicative, and the optative only once (Φ 580), with πρίν. The required sense was given by ἕως or πρίν γ' ὅτε δή. A finite mood was first used of the future, and after negative clauses (οὐ πρότερον πρίν like οὐ πρότερον ἕως).—Homer commonly uses the infinitive with πρίν meaning before and until. Here the infinitive (as with ὥστε) simply states the abstract verbal notion, and thus has no reference to differences of time or mood; πρίν being used almost like πρό before as πρὶν ἰδεῖν πρὸ τοῦ ἰδεῖν before seeing (first in Xenophon). This early use with the infinitive was, with some restrictions, retained in Attic, where the infinitive may sometimes be used instead of the finite verb. πρίν came more and more to take the subjunctive with ἄν and to assume conditional relations (cp. cross2433); while the use with the infinitive was more and more confined to cases where the leading verb was affirmative.


The comparative idea in πρίν explains its negative force: an event A happened before another event B, i.e. A occurred when B had not yet (οὔπω) occurred. Because of its negative force πρίν commonly takes the aorist in all the moods. The aorist has an affinity for the negative because it marks simple and total negation of an action regarded in its mere occurrence; whereas the imperfect with a negative denotes resistance or refusal ( cross1896) in respect of an action regarded as continuing. When πρίν takes the present in any mood the actions of the correlated clauses usually overlap. The present occurs chiefly in the prose writers of the fourth century.

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πρότερον or πρόσθεν may be used in the principal clause as a forerunner of πρίν. Examples in 2441, 2444, 2445.

a. Homer has πρὶν . . . πρίν B 348. Attic has also φθάνω . . . πρίν, as φθήσονται πλεύσαντες πρὶν τὴν ξυμφορὰ_ν Χίους αἰσθέσθαι they will succeed in making their voyage before the Chians hear of the disaster T. 8.12.


πρίν in Attic prose takes the indicative of a definite past action when the verb of the principal clause is negative or implies a negative, rarely when it is affirmative.

οὔτε τότε Κύ_ρῳ ἰέναι ἤθελε πρὶν ἡ γυνὴ αὐτὸν ἔπεισε nor was he willing then to enter into relations with Cyrus until his wife persuaded him X. A. 1.2.26, οὐ πρότερον ἐπαύσαντο πρὶν τόν τε πατέρ' ἐκ τοῦ στρατοπέδου μετεπέμψαντο καὶ τῶν φίλων αὐτοῦ τοὺς μὲν ἀπέκτειναν, τοὺς δ' ἐκ τῆς πόλεως ἐξέβαλον they did not stop until they sent for his father from the camp, put some of his friends to death and expelled others from the city I. 16.8, οὐ πρόσθεν ἐπαύσαντο πρὶν ἐξεπολιόρκησαν τὸν Ὄλουρον they did not cease from hostilities until they had captured Olurus by siege X. H. 7.4.18, οὐδ' ὣς . . . ἠξίωσαν νεώτερόν τι ποιεῖν ἐς αὐτόν . . . πρίν γε δὴ . . . ἀνὴρ Ἀργίλιος μηνυ_τὴς γίγνεται (historical present = aorist) not even under these circumstances did they think it right to take any severe measures against him, until finally a man of Argilus turned informer T. 1.132.

a. The tense in the πρίν clause is usually the aorist (the tense of negation, 2439, and of prior action); rarely the imperfect (of contemporaneous, overlapping action), as D. 9.61. The historical present is also used as an equivalent of the aorist. The principal clause usually has a secondary tense of the indicative. πρίν with the indicative is not common until Herodotus and the Attic writers.

b. The verb of the principal clause may be virtually negative, as τοὺς . . . Ἀθηναίους λανθάνουσι πρὶν δὴ τῇ Δήλῳ ἔσχον they escaped the notice of the Athenians (i.e. οὐχ ὁρῶνται) until they reached Delos T. 3.29. Cp. T. 3.104, X. A. 2.5.33. Observe that οὐ παύομαι ( cross2441) is not regarded as virtually affirmative.

c. The verb of the principal clause is affirmative in prose only in T. 7.39, 7. 71, Aes. 1.64. In all of these cases the leading verb is an imperfect, which emphasizes the continuation of the action up to the point of time expressed by the πρίν clause.

d. The use in Herodotus is the same as in Attic prose. Homer has the indicative (after affirmative or negative clauses) only with πρίν γ' ὅτε until. In the drama πρίν with the indicative is rare. Euripides uses it only after affirmative clauses. When πρίν is = ἕως it often takes δή.


A πρίν clause, depending on a past tense denoting non-fulfilment, itself denotes non-fulfilment and takes a past indicative by assimilation ( cross2185 b).

χρῆν τοίνυν Λεπτίνην μὴ πρότερον τιθέναι τὸν ἑαυτοῦ νόμον πρὶν τοῦτον ἔλυ_σε Leptines ought not then to have proposed his own law until (before) he had repealed this D. 20.96. Cp. cross2455 b.

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πρίν with the subjunctive and ἄν refers to the future or to general present time.


(I) πρίν takes the subjunctive with ἄν to denote a future action anticipated by the subject of the leading verb. The principal clause is negative, and contains any verb referring to the future except the simple optative.

οὐ πρότερον κακῶν παύσονται αἱ πόλεις πρὶν ἂν ἐν αὐταῖς οἱ φιλόσοφοι ἄρξωσιν States will not cease from evil until philosophers become rulers in them P. R. 487e, μὴ ἀπέλθητε πρὶν ἂν ἀκούσητε do not go away until you hear (shall have heard) X. A. 5.7.12, οὐ χρή μ' ἐνθένδε ἀπελθεῖν πρὶν ἂν δῶ δίκην I must not depart hence until I have suffered punishment 5. 7. 5, μηδένα φίλον ποιοῦ πρὶν ἂν ἐξετάσῃς πῶς κέχρηται τοῖς πρότερον φίλοις make no one your friend until you have inquired how he has treated his former friends I. 1.24, μή ποτ' ἐπαινήσῃς πρὶν ἂν εἰδῇς ἄνδρα σαφηνέως never praise a man until you have come to know him well Theognis 963. Observe that the last two examples contain a general truth.

a. The aorist subjunctive is usual (the tense of negation, 2439, and of action prior to that of the principal clause); much less common is the present subjunctive (usually of contemporaneous, overlapping action) as X. C. 2.2.8 ( cross2446).

b. Homer does not use κέ or ἄν in this construction since πρίν is here adverbial and its clause is simply coördinated. But Hom. has πρίν γ' ὅτ' ἄν. The subjunctive without ἄν occurs occasionally as an archaism in Hdt. and the dramatic poets. In Attic prose especially in Thuc. (e.g. 6. 10, 29, cross38); but ἄν is often inserted by editors.

c. The leading verb is rarely the optative with ἄν (as a form of future expression): οὐκ ἂν ἀπέλθοιμι πρὶν παντάπα_σιν ἡ ἀγορὰ_ λυθῇ (cp. b) I will not go away until the market is entirely over X. O. 12.1.


(II) After a negative clause of present time that expresses a customary or repeated action or a general truth, πρίν takes the subjunctive with ἄν.

οὐ πρότερον παύονται πρὶν ἂν πείσωσιν οὓς ἠδίκησαν they do not cease to endure until they have won over those whom they have wronged P. Ph. 114b.

a. The leading verb may stand in another tense than the present indicative, as οὐδεὶς πώποτε ἐπέθετο (empiric aorist, cross1930) πρότερον δήμου καταλύσει πρὶν ἂν μεῖζον τῶν δικαστηρίων ἰσχύ_σῃ no one has ever attempted the subversion of the people until he became superior to the courts of justice Aes. 3.235.


After a secondary tense in actual or implied indirect discourse, πρίν with the subjunctive and ἄν is common instead of the optative without ἄν ( cross2449).

εἶπον μηδένα τῶν ὄπισθεν κι_νεῖσθαι πρὶν ἂν ὁ πρόσθεν ἡγῆται I ordered that none in the rear should move until the one before him led the way X. C. 2.2.8 (here πρὶν ἡγοῖτο is possible).

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The principal clause may be affirmative in form, but virtually negative.

αἰσχρὸν ( = οὐ καλὸν or οὐ δεῖν) δ' ἡγοῦμαι πρότερον παύσασθαι πρὶν ἂν ὑ_μεῖς περὶ αὐτῶν ὅ τι ἂν βούλησθε ψηφίσησθε I consider it base (i.e. I do not consider it to be honourable) to stop until you have voted what you wish L. 22.4. Cf. Thuc. 6. 38, D. 38.24, E. Heracl. 179.


πρίν with the optative is used only in indirect discourse or by assimilation to another optative.


(I) The optative without ἄν follows πρίν to denote an action anticipated in the past when the principal clause is negative and its verb is in a secondary tense. The optative is here in indirect discourse (actual or implied) and represents ἄν with the subjunctive, which is often retained ( cross2446). Cp. cross2420.

ἀπηγόρευε μηδένα βάλλειν πρὶν Κῦρος ἐμπλησθείη θηρῶν he forbade any one to shoot until Cyrus should have had his fill of hunting X. C. 1.4.14 ( = μηδεὶς βαλλέτω πρὶν ἂν Κῦρος ἐμπλησθῇ), οἱ Ἠλεῖοι . . . ἔπειθον (αὐτοὺς) μὴ ποιεῖσθαι μάχην πρὶν οἱ Θηβαῖοι παραγένοιντο the Eleans persuaded them not to engage in battle until the Thebans should have come up X. H. 6.5.19 ( = μὴ ποιεῖτε μάχην πρὶν ἂν παραγένωνται).

a. In indirect discourse the infinitive is preferred ( cross2455 d).


(II) By assimilation of mood, πρίν may take the optative when the negative principal clause has the optative. Cp. cross2186 b.

εἰ ἕλκοι τις αὐτόν . . . καὶ μὴ ἀνείη πρὶν ἐξελκύ_σειεν ἐς τὸ τοῦ ἡλίου φῶς κτλ. if one should drag him and not let him go until he had dragged him out into the sunlight, etc. P. R. 515e.


The optative with πρίν in clauses of customary or repeated action seems not to be used.


πρὶν ἄν with the optative is rare and suspected (cp. cross2421).


πρίν takes the infinitive in Attic especially when the principal clause is affirmative. The infinitive must be used, even with negative clauses, when πρίν must mean only before (and not until).

a. The infinitive is obligatory in Attic when the action of the πρίν clause does not take place or is not to take place (cp. ὥστε μή with the infinitive).

b. The infinitive takes the accusative when its subject is different from that of the principal clause.

c. The usual tense is the aorist, the tense of negation ( cross2439) and of the simple occurrence of the action. Less frequent is the present (chiefly in Xenophon), of action continuing, repeated, or attempted (before undertaking to,

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before proceeding to). The perfect, of action completed with permanent result, is rare.

οἱ καὶ πρὶν ἐμὲ εἰπεῖν ὁτιοῦν εἰδότες who know even before I say anything at all D. 18.50, σύνιστε μὲν καὶ πρὶν ἐμὲ λέγειν you know as well as I do even before I proceed to set forth in detail the matter of my speech Aes. 1.116, ἀπετράποντο ἐς τὴν πόλιν πρὶν ὑπερβαίνειν they turned back to the city before they attempted to scale the wall T. 3.24.


When the principal clause is affirmative, πρίν before regularly takes the infinitive.

ἐπὶ τὸ ἄκρον ἀναβαίνει Χειρίσοφος πρίν τινας αἰσθέσθαι τῶν πολεμίων Chirisophus ascended the height before any of the enemy perceived him X. A. 4.1.7, πρὶν καταλῦσαι τὸ στράτευμα πρὸς ἄ_ριστον βασιλεὺς ἐφάνη before the army halted for breakfast, the king appeared 1. 10. 19, πέμψα_ς, πρὶν ἐν Τεγέᾳ αὐτὸς εἶναι, πρὸς τὸν ἄρχοντα τῶν ξένων, ἐκέλευε κτλ. lit. before he himself arrived at Tegea, sending to the commander of the mercenaries, he gave orders, etc. X. H. 5.4.37 (αὐτός, by attraction to the subject of πέμψα_ς).


When the main clause is negative, πρίν sometimes takes the infinitive in Attic, and generally means before, rarely until. When before and after are contrasted, until is out of place, and the πρίν clause often precedes.

a. In reference to present or past time: πρὶν ὡς αφοβον ἐλθεῖν μίαν ἡμέρα_ν οὐκ ἐχήρευσεν before she came to Aphobus she was not a widow a single day D. 30.33, πρὶν μὲν τοῦτο πρᾶξαι Λεωκράτην ἄδηλον ἦν ὁποῖοί τινες ἐτύγχανον, νῦν δέ κτλ. before Leocrates did this, it was uncertain what sort of men they were; but now, etc. Lyc. 135, πρὶν ἀνάγεσθαί με εἰς τὴν Ἄἶνον . . . οὐδεὶς ᾐτιά_σατό με before I proceeded to set sail for Aenus no one accused me Ant. 5.25.

b. In reference to action unfulfilled: οὓς (λόγους) εἴ τις ἐπέδειξεν αὐτοῖς πρὶν ἐμὲ διαλεχθῆναι περὶ αὐτῶν, οὐκ ἔστιν ὅπως οὐκ ἂν . . . δυσκόλως πρὸς σὲ διετέθησαν and if any one had shown these words to them before I discussed them, it is inevitable that they would have been discontented with you I. 12.250.

c. In reference to future time: οὐχ οἷόν τ' ἐστὶν αἰσθέσθαι πρὶν κακῶς τινας παθεῖν ὑπ' αὐτῶν it is not possible to perceive this before some suffer injury at their hands I. 20.14, καί μοι μὴ θορυβήσῃ μηδεὶς πρὶν ἀκοῦσαι and let no one raise a disturbance before he hears D. 5.15 (cp. ὅπως μὴ θορυβήσει μηδεὶς πρὶν ἂν ἅπαντα εἴπω D. 13, cross14).

N.—With verbs of fearing, the positive being the thing dreaded; as δέδοικα μὴ πρὶν πόνοις ὑπερβάλῃ με γῆρας πρὶν σὰ_ν χαρίεσσαν προσιδεῖν ὥρα_ν I fear lest old age overcome me with its troubles before I live to behold thy gracious beauty E. fr. 453.

d. Infinitive instead of the optative after a leading verb in a secondary tense: ἱ_κέτευον μηδαμῶς ἀποτρέπεσθαι πρὶν ἐμβαλεῖν εἰς τὴν τῶν Λακεδαιμονίων χώρα_ν they entreated them by no means to turn aside until they should invade the territory of the Lacedaemonians X. H. 6.5.23 (here the optative might stand in indirect discourse to represent the subjunctive with ἄν), οὔτ' αὐτός ποτε πρὶν ἱδρῶσαι δεῖπνον ᾑρεῖτο neither was he ever accustomed to take his supper until he got into a sweat by exercise X. C. 8.1.38 (for ἱδρώσειε, see cross2451).

e. Infinitive after an optative with ἄν in a principal clause: εἴ τίς τινα μηχανὴν

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ἔχοι πρὸς τοῦτο . . ., οὐκ ἄν ποτε λέγων ἀπείποι τὸ τοιοῦτον πρὶν ἐπὶ τέλος ἐλθεῖν; if ever any lawgiver should have any plan for this, would he ever be weary of discussing such a scheme until he reached the end? P. L. 769e. Here the subjunctive with ἄν is permitted.


The lyric poets and Herodotus use πρίν with the infinitive as it is used in Attic prose and poetry. Homer has the infinitive after affirmative or negative clauses alike (before and until), and often where a finite verb would be used in Attic; as ναῖε δὲ Πήδαιον πρὶν ἐλθεῖν υἷας Ἀχαιῶν he dwelt in Pedaeon before the sons of the Achaeans came N 172, οὔ μ' ἀποτρέψεις πρὶν χαλκῷ μαχέσασθαι ( = Attic ἂν μαχέσῃ) thou shalt not dissuade me until thou hast fought with the spear Υ 257; often in correspondence with the adverbial πρίν, as οὐδέ τις ἔτλη πρὶν πιέειν, πρὶν λεῖψαι nor durst any man (sooner) drink before he had offered a libation H 480.


ἢ πρίν than before, with a past tense suppressed after , occurs first in Xenophon (C. 5. 2. 36, 7. 5. cross77).

πρότερον ἤ, πρόσθεν ἤ, πρὶν ἤ, πάρος 2458

πρότερον ἤ sooner than, before is used especially in Herodotus and Thucydides. (a) With the indicative: οὐ πρότερον ἐνέδοσαν ἢ αὐτοὶ ἐν σφίσιν αὐτοῖς . . . ἐσφάλησαν they did not succumb before they were overthrown by themselves T. 2.65. (b) With the infinitive: τὰ_ς δ' ἄλλα_ς πόλεις ἔφη ἀδικεῖν, αἳ ἐς Ἀθηναίους πρότερον ἢ ἀποστῆναι ἀνήλουν he said the other States were wrong, which, before they revolted, used to pay money into the treasury of the Athenians T. 8.45. (c) With the subjunctive (without ἄν) rarely (T. 7.63). Chiefly in Hdt.


So πρόσθεν ἤ sooner than, before: ἀπεκρί_νατο . . . ὅτι πρόσθεν ἂν ἀποθάνοιεν ἢ τὰ ὅπλα παραδοίησαν he answered that they would die before (sooner than that) they would surrender their arms X. A. 2.1.10. ὕστερον ἤ later than takes, by analogy, the infinitive once in Thuc. (6. 4).


πρὶν ἤ sooner than, before with the infinitive occurs in Homer (only E 288, X cross266) and Hdt. (2. 2); and in Hdt. also with the indicative (6. cross45) and subjunctive (7. 10 η, without ἄν). πρὶν ἤ is rare and suspected in Attic (X. C. 1.4.23); but is common in late Greek.


πάρος before in Homer takes the infinitive (Z cross348).

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Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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