Förr, förut, förrän, före and … innan!


A long time ago, I got this question:

It would be a huge help if you could explain how and when to use the different words that mean before. I never know if it’s förr, or if it’s innan. [...] and I’ve heard a word like förns, or something, …



“Förr” has different meanings. First of all it simply means “before”, as in “earlier” or “previously”. Here are a couple of examples of how to use it.

Vi har träffats förr, eller hur?

(We have met before, haven’t we?)


Or, when a teacher is explaining word order (for example) the students often say:

Jag har aldrig hört det förr!

(I have never heard that before!)

“Förr” can also, when it means “before”, be replaced by “förut” and we get the exact same meaning. Like this:

Vi har träffats förut, eller hur?


Jag har aldrig hört det förut!

Now some bad news – “förr” also means “in former times” or in “former years” which is way further back in time than just “before”.

Förr trodde man att jorden var platt.

(People used to think that the earth was flat.)

Det var bättre förr i tiden.

(“Everything was better in earlier times.”)


innan and före

“Innan” means “before”. The problem is that there is also is the word “före” that also means “before”, and I can see how it can be hard to know which one to use. “Innan” is a “subjunction” (conjunction between an independent and a dependent clause).   “Före” is a preposition and only has a relation to a noun, not a whole clause. “Före” means “before” as a preposition, but is also used meaning “in front of” or “ahead of”. Let’s check out a couple of examples that illustrate the difference:

Jag äter frukost innan jag åker till jobbet.

(I have breakfast before I go to work.)

Mycket ska man höra innan öronen faller av!

(“You will hear many things before your ears fall off!”)

Det var många före mig i kön på posten idag.

(There were a lot of people in front of me at the post office today.)

Anna Andersson står före Bengt Bengtsson på listan.

(Anna Andersson is before Bengt Bengtsson on the list.)


inte förrän/inte förrns

The word “förrän” is never by itself, but has to be combined with “inte” or other negating words like “knappt” or “aldrig”. Together they translate to English “not until” or “before”. The “förrns” mentioned in the question, is actually just a colloquial or maybe regional version of “förrän”. Actually my mother often uses “förrns” more often than she uses “förrän” JHere is an example with “förrän”:

Du får ingen glass förrän du har ätit upp din broccoli.

(You don’t get any ice cream until you have finished your broccoli.)

Some common sayings also have “inte förrän”:


Man ska inte sälja skinnet förrän björnen är skjuten.

(“Don’t sell the bear’s coat before the bear is shot.”)

Man ska inte ropa hej förrän man är över bäcken.

(“Don’t shout “hej” before you have jumped over the stream.” “Don’t crow too soon.”)


Keep up the good work speaking Swedish!

Sara the Swedish Teacher