It is important to clarify that its official meaning, according to the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, defines it as an adjective used to describe a event that takes place before another. However, in everyday speech it is very common to also use it as a synonym for the adverb previously. In the next paragraph we will see some sentences in which these two options appear and then we will explain the nuances that differentiate them.
For instance: “Before the start of the game, a young singer moved the audience by passionately singing the national anthem”, “In the municipality they explained to me that, to sell homemade food legally, you have to complete several previous steps”, “Yesterday, at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, an introductory meeting was held prior to the beginning of the school year “.
In the first example sentence we can appreciate its use as adverb, since we could either replace it by “before the game” or “before the game”, or some adverbial construction such as “a few minutes before the game”, and so on. It is not an adjective because it does not modify any noun but gives us information about the moment in which the action took place, a function that adverbs of time fulfill. It would be different to speak of the “previous event” to the game, referring to the interpretation of the national anthem by the young singer.
The second, on the other hand, shows us its use as an adjective: it speaks of “previous steps”, that is, of things prior to others. In this case, we can ensure that the word previous it is an adjective because it modifies the noun Steps, just as it would happen with “difficult steps” or “long steps.” It is very important to do this type of verification to know for sure if we are dealing with an adverb or an adjective, since its functions they are really different.
The last example is a bit more confusing than the previous two when it comes to the function of the word previous. Before continuing, it should be clarified that in this case it also acts as an adverb, since it indicates the moment in time in which the introductory meeting takes place and we could say “before the start of the school year”. However, given its apparent agreement in gender and number with the noun meeting (which is masculine and singular), can lead us to confusion and make us think that it is actually an adjective: “the previous meeting.” It would be an adjective in a sentence like the following: “The previous introductory meeting was very interesting”, because here it could be replaced by “previous”.
Take the case of a sports team preparing for the start of a championship world. In this framework, he plays three friendly matches before the tournament. The third of these matches, therefore, represents the last challenge before the big competition.
Let’s imagine that the Health Minister of a country plans to resign from office for personal reasons. Before announcing the decision, he meets with the president to talk about it and only after said talk does he publicly announce his resignation. It can be stated that, prior to announcement, the official spoke with the president.
Let us now analyze a trip By car. A family runs from one point TO to a point D, passing in the middle of the journey by B and C. Yes D is the farthest place from TO, and B and C are closer, travelers will pass through B and by C prior to arrival at D.