I have been constructing sentences lately using with раньше.

Later on, I came across with the word прежде which I find similar at some point while I was searching for example sentences. For example, I came across with these sentences.

Он раньше курил. // He used to smoke.

Он прежде курил. // In the Tatoeba, it is translated the same as above.

I wanted to know their differences and at least, provide an example sentences.

  • Прежде-тут. Раньше-до этого времени. Oct 17 '17 at 18:30
  • If you look like Lev Tolstoy(try to google picture) nobody would be surprised if you say прежде. Nov 2 '17 at 15:04

In your examples "Раньше и прежде" are synonyms in the meaning of "used to". The difference is in usage. Whereas "раньше" is neutral, "прежде " is considered to be "bookish" and is often met in literature. In English they are translated He used to smoke(both раньше и прежде)

Раньше время было другое. (Neutral )

Прежде времена другие были.(Bookish)

Прежде has one more meaning "сначала, сперва(first)

Прежде думай, потом говори.(First think, then speak)

  • "Прежде" with a particle ("прежде чем", "прежде всего") are in wide use and not bookish at all.
    – Alexander
    Oct 17 '17 at 17:39
  • Прежде, чем is a conjunction and not an adverb in the meaning "used to",so nobody meant that usage. Though there exists a pair раньше,чем--прежде, чем. In "прежде всего" "прежде"is a preposition.
    – V.V.
    Oct 17 '17 at 18:35

The difference is quite subtle due to the two words being very close synonyms.

'Прежде' is used to point out the difference between the current situation and the one observed before ('he used to smoke last time I met him, but now he doesn't').

'Раньше', on the other hand, simply means 'earlier' as in 'at some point back in time', but, nevertheless, is sometimes also used to mean 'прежде'.

So, if translated fully, the two sentences would be:

"Он прежде курил": Before, he used to smoke.

"Он раньше курил": Earlier, he used to smoke.

  • As if "before " is not "earlier", but quite the opposite.
    – V.V.
    Oct 17 '17 at 18:40

You cannot say: "Он прежде курил". I do not think this word goes well along with that particular sentence. You could say something like: Прежде чем покурить дорогой сигарет, он позвони другу насчет книги- He called his friend regarding a book before he smoked an expensive cigarette.

  • 4
    You cannot say: "Он прежде курил" Nope. This sentence is absolutely OK.
    – Matt
    Oct 17 '17 at 20:24
  • @Matt - maybe "раньше"? Oct 17 '17 at 20:26
  • As a Russian speaker: " Он прежде курил" sounds weird. I would not use this particular word or I could use it in a different way. Anyways, good luck with your Russian. Oct 17 '17 at 20:28
  • 2
    "Он прежде курил" - sounds Ok if there is an implied event: "прежде чем что?" - "before what?" For example, friends are describing the changes in his comrade after he returns from military service.
    – Alexander
    Oct 17 '17 at 20:56

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