If a Latin sentence cannot end in a preposition, how would you say "I have never seen that before." in Latin?

Would you say something along the lines of "Numquam illud vidi ante hoc tempus.", or?

  • 1
    Ignoring the fact that this isn’t a case of an English sentence ending in a preposition (the accepted answer covers that), it’s important to remember that the English sentence can be restructured to not end in ‘before’ (‘Before now I have never seen that.’). It doesn’t sound as natural in English, but a literal back-translation sounding natural in English isn’t a criteria for a good translation into Latin either. Commented May 18 at 18:10
  • My 8th grade English teacher would mark "I have never seen that before" as incorrect. Drop "before" to make it "I have never seen that", which means exactly the same as your sentence.
    – RonJohn
    Commented May 19 at 0:17
  • I don't know latin, but how would you translate, "I have never seen that before now"? Commented May 19 at 20:59
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    @RonJohn I wouldn't say "exactly". To me, "I have never seen that" implies you are referring to something that you still have not seen, while "I have never seen that before" implies you are seeing something for the first time.
    – chepner
    Commented May 19 at 21:15
  • @SolomonSlow That'd make a good follow-up question. I'd much rather see that as a proper question than hidden in comments. It's not obvious whether you can use a preposition with nunc or any other word for "now".
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented May 19 at 21:38

1 Answer 1


In the English sentence "I have never seen that before" the last word is not a preposition but an adverb. Some English prepositions, like "before", can function as adverbs, but some, like "during", cannot. That's why you can say "I've seen it before" but not "I saw it during".

This distinction between prepositions and adverbs is also useful for Latin. It is true that you cannot end a Latin sentence with a preposition, but you can with an adverb. You can formulate sentences like your example with an adverb, and for that I recommend looking into antea and antehac and their pairs postea and posthac.

While it is possible to use a prepositional phrase like in your attempt, that does not sound idiomatic to me. Omitting the adverb entirely is also an option worth considering.

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    Technically, one might say that Vade mecum. ends with a preposition 😉 Commented May 18 at 12:07
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    @SebastianKoppehel One might, but technically I fail to find that -cum a proper preposition. That might be the closest Latin gets to a sentence-final preposition.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented May 18 at 12:13
  • Now before me is a problem I have never before looked at. Commented May 19 at 9:11

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