table of content chapter 1616.5.4.1 Introductory word stand in a time of the past

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chapter 16: conjunctions

  16.5.4.1 Introductory word stands in a time of the past
 

Prima che corresponds to before and is always followed by a congiuntivo. You may find that this is not very logical, but it is like that. In THEORY we can distinguish between two situations

We are talking about something that happened in the past. Concerning the past there is no insecurity.

a) Before he was able to finish the work, it started raining.

We are talking about something that happens in the present. In this case there is insecurity.

b) Before he can finish the work it will start raining.

You might be induced to believe that in case a) the indicative is to be used (~Prima che poteva finire il lavoro cominciò a piovere ~). But that's not the case. Even if the use of the congiuntivo is not very logical in this case, after prima che the congiuntivo is to be used: Always.

a) Before he was able to finish the work, it started raining.
a) Prima che potesse finire il lavoro cominciò a piovere.

Case b) is different. In this case, the use of the congiuntivo is logical because we don't know when he will finish the work. We presume that he will not be able to finish the work before it starts to rain, but we don't know it.

But whether the use of the congiuntivo after prima che is logical in all circumstances or not is irrelevant. The fact is, that after prima che the congiunctivo is required and that's like that in all romance languages.

If we take a closer look at the conjunction prima che we can distinguish two situations.

The construction prima che + congiuntivo is used if on action / event follows another
  Circa un' ora prima che facesse buio, Mario arrivò dal fiume senza alcun pesce.
  One hours before it got dark, Mario came back from the river without any fish.
  The construction prima che + congiuntivo piucheperfetto is used when a action / event started before another has finished
  Prima che avessi finito la frase, l'uomo se ne era andato.
  Bevor I finished the sentence, the man has gone.

examples
  Prima che ci rendessimo conto di quel che stava succedendo, il ladro era sparito.
  Before we got aware what happened, the thief had disappeared.
  Come si faceva prima che lo inventassero?
  What had they done bevor it was invented.
  Prima che la legge 194/78 venisse approvata dal parlamento Italiano gli aborti clandestini venivano stimati in oltre 250.000 all'anno.
  Before the law 194/78 was passed by the Italian parlament, the number of illegal abortion was estimated at 250 000 a year.
  Prima che gli fossero affidate queste incombenze,
era stato eletto vescovo dal clero della sua patria.
  Bevor this task was entrusted to him he had been elected bishop by the clerus of his home country.
  Ci vorranno ancora degli anni prima che gli utenti ne vedano la realizzazione,
tuttavia questa nuova idea sta già facendo discutere.
  It still will take years before the users see, that it had been realised, nevertheless people started to talking about it.
  In questo episodio il gruppo di ladri capeggiati da George Clooney e Brad Pitt devono far fallire un casinò ancora prima che sia ufficialmente aperto.
  In this episode a group of thiefs headed by George Clooney and Brad Pitt must drive a Casino into bankruptcy even before it was officially opened.

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