← Previous

Beginner 2 > Lesson 25

Lesson 25. “Before” (전에, -기 전에)

In this lesson, we will learn about the word and how to use it with nouns and verbs.


First of all, 전 (前) means «front» referring to a place, and it also means «before» referring to time. In this lesson, you will learn 전 when talking about time.

Since it indicates time, it is mostly followed by “,” the time marking particle, like “noun 전 (before noun.)”

Some other particles that mark the time like 부터(from), 까지(to) can also be used, like “noun 전부터 (since before noun)” and “noun 전까지(till before noun).” 


1. Noun + 전에 : before Noun

출근 : before going to work > 저는 출근 전에 화장을 해요. I put on make up before going to work.

점심 까지 : till before lunch > 점심 전까지 끝내주세요. Please finish it (till) before lunch.

오후 1시 : before 1pm > 오후 1시 전에 택배를 받았어요. I received the package before 1pm.

주말 부터: from before weekend > 주말 전부터 기대됐어요. I was looking forward to it even before the weekend.

식사 : before eating > 식사 전에 꼭 손을 씻으세요. Make sure to wash your hands before eating.


2. Time Duration + 전에 : [time duration] ago

When you combine the duration of time with 전, it means “(time) ago”. 

[Time] + 전에 = [Time] ago


For example:

저는 오 분전에 선생님을 만났어요. – I met my teacher 5 minutes ago.

일 년 전에 한국에 갔어요. – I went to Korea a year ago.

이 영화를 친구랑 두 달 전에 이미 봤어요. – I already watched this movie two months ago with my friend.

한국어를 오 년 전에 공부하기 시작했어요. – I started studying Korean 5 years ago.

저는 헬스장에 삼 주 전에 갔어요. – I went to a gym 3 weeks ago.


Now let’s look at how 전 can be used with verbs.


3. Verb- 전에

Before studying this grammar construction, let me remind you of the verb’s nominalization in Korean.

Nominalization is a grammatical action that allows you to change a verb into a noun. In English, you use “Verb-ing” construction to do so.


먹다 (to eat) > 먹기 / 먹는 것 (eating)

말하다 (to speak) > 말하기 / 말하는 것 (speaking)

운동하다 (to exercise) > 운동하기 / 운동하는 것 (exercising)

*We learned this in one of the previous lessons “Changing Verb into Noun (nominalization, verb-기, verb-는 것)


Now you’ll notice that a verb is nominalized by using Verb-기 in “Verb-기 전에” construction. So it literally means, “Before Verb-ing.”


Let’s look at some examples:

저는 학교에 전에 맛있는 아침을 먹었어요. – Before going to school, I had a delicious breakfast.

친구에게 전화하 전에 숙제를 했어요. – I did the homework before calling my friend.

저는 영화를 전에 엄마를 도와드려야 돼요. – I should help my mom before watching a movie.

제가 집에 전에 엄마는 저녁을 준비할 거예요. – My mom will prepare dinner before I come home.

밖에 나가 전에 우산을 가져가! – Take an umbrella before you go outside.

한국에 전에 한국어를 공부했어요. – I studied Korean before going there.

한국에 전에 한국어를 공부할 거에요. – I will study Korean before going there.

전에 영화를 볼래요? – Shall we watch a movie before going to bed?

요리하 전에 손을 씻어야 돼요. – You should wash your hands before cooking.

영화 보 전에 팝콘 사자! – Let’s buy popcorn before watching the movie!


As you can see, the sentence that follows after -기 전에 can be in present tense, past tense, future tense or some other constructions like Verb-아/어야 되다(have to), Verb-ㄹ/을래? (invitation), imperative sentence etc. There is no limitation as to which type of sentence cannot come afterwards.