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Previous vs. Prior: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Previous refers to something existing or happening before the current point in time, while Prior implies importance or precedence in time or order.
Previous vs. Prior

Key Differences

Previous typically describes something immediately preceding the current point in time or situation, often used to refer to a directly preceding event or state. Prior, while also indicating something earlier, often conveys a sense of importance or necessity before something else.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023
In a temporal context, previous is commonly used to specify something that happened just before another event. Prior, on the other hand, is often used in contexts where priority or precedence in time is emphasized.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023
Previous is more likely to be used in everyday, casual language to describe the most recent in a sequence of events. Prior is often found in formal or written contexts, especially when discussing prerequisites or conditions that need to be met before something else.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023
In terms of usage, previous is often followed by a noun without a preposition. In contrast, prior is frequently used with 'to' to indicate a relationship with another event or condition.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023
When it comes to legal or formal documentation, 'prior' is typically preferred for its connotation of precedence and importance, whereas 'previous' is more common in informal or conversational settings.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Temporal Context

Directly preceding in time
Preceding with importance
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Common Usage

Everyday, casual language
Formal, written contexts
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Dec 06, 2023

Preposition Use

Often used alone
Often used with 'to'
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Dec 06, 2023

Connotation

Recent or last in sequence
Importance or necessity
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Dec 06, 2023

Example Sentences

"In the previous chapter..."
"Prior to this agreement..."
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Dec 06, 2023
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Previous and Prior Definitions

Previous

Existing or occurring before in time or order.
He returned to his previous job.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Prior

A superior officer, especially in a monastery.
The prior gave his blessing to the monks.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Previous

Former or earlier.
She revisited her previous school.
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Dec 06, 2023

Prior

Preceding in time or order.
His prior engagement prevented him from attending.
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Dec 06, 2023

Previous

Immediately preceding.
The previous owner of the house was a painter.
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Dec 06, 2023
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Prior

Preceding in time or order
“[They] insist that foreign vessels seeking access obtain prior approval” (Seymour M. Hersh).
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Oct 19, 2023

Previous

Earlier mentioned or implied.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph...
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Prior

Preceding in importance or value
A prior consideration.
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Oct 19, 2023

Previous

Existing or occurring before something else in time or order; prior
Children by a previous marriage.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

Usage Problem Before.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Previous

(Informal) Acting, occurring, or done too soon; premature or hasty
"I have been too previous, for which you must blame the natural impatience of a man in love" (Georgette Heyer).
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

A previous conviction or arrest
The suspect has two priors.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Previous

(not comparable) Prior; occurring before something else, either in time or order.
He is no better than the previous Prime Minister.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

A monastic officer in charge of a priory or ranking next below the abbot of an abbey.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Previous

(informal) Premature; acting or occurring too soon.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

One of the ruling magistrates of the medieval Italian republic of Florence.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Previous

An existing criminal record (short for "previous convictions")
It turned out the shoplifter had a lot of previous.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

Advance; previous; coming before.
I had no prior knowledge you were coming.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Previous

A track record of similar behaviour.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

Former, previous.
His prior residence was smaller than his current one.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Previous

Going before in time; being or happening before something else; antecedent; prior; as, previous arrangements; a previous illness.
The dull sound . . . previous to the storm,Rolls o'er the muttering earth.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

(colloquial) Previously.
The doctor had known three months prior.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Previous

(used especially of persons) of the immediate past;
The former president
Our late President is still very active
The previous occupant of the White House
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

A previous arrest or criminal conviction on someone's record.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Previous

Too soon or too hasty;
Our condemnation of him was a bit previous
A premature judgment
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

A prior probability distribution, one based on information or belief before additional data is collected.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Previous

Just preceding something else in time or order;
The previous owner
My old house was larger
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

A belief supported by previous evidence or experience that one can use to make inferences about the future.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Previous

Preceding in importance or relevance.
His previous experience was crucial for the job.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Prior

A high-ranking member of a monastery, usually lower in rank than an abbot.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

(historical) A chief magistrate in Italy.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

Preceding in the order of time; former; antecedent; anterior; previous; as, a prior discovery; prior obligation; - used elliptically in cases like the following: he lived alone [in the time] prior to his marriage.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

First, precedent, or superior in the order of cognition, reason or generality, origin, development, rank, etc.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

The superior of a priory, and next below an abbot in dignity.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

A chief magistrate, as in the republic of Florence in the middle ages.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

A prior conviction; - said of an accused criminal.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

The head of a religious order; in an abbey the prior is next below the abbot
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

Earlier in time
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Prior

Existing or coming before in time, order, or importance.
Prior knowledge of the subject is required.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Prior

Earlier or previous.
The decision was based on prior events.
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Dec 06, 2023

Prior

More important or urgent.
He had prior commitments that day.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Repeatedly Asked Queries

Can 'prior' be used as a noun?

Yes, in a religious context, 'prior' refers to a ranking monk in a monastery.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Does 'previous' always refer to the immediate past?

Mostly, but it can also refer to any earlier time or order.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Can 'previous' imply importance?

Not typically; it usually just denotes order in time.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Does 'prior' always need to be followed by 'to'?

Often, but not always. It depends on the sentence structure.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Is 'prior' suitable for formal writing?

Yes, 'prior' is often preferred in formal and official documents.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Can 'previous' be used to describe people?

Yes, like "previous owner" or "previous manager."
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Is 'previous' used more in spoken or written English?

Previous is commonly used in both, but it's more casual and often seen in spoken English.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Is 'prior' used in legal contexts?

Yes, especially when discussing prerequisites or conditions.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Can 'previous' refer to something of less importance?

The term doesn't inherently convey importance, just order.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Can 'previous' be used in scientific contexts?

Yes, particularly when discussing previous findings or research.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Is 'prior' appropriate in historical writing?

Yes, especially when emphasizing the importance of historical events.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Can 'previous' and 'prior' be used interchangeably?

Sometimes, but their nuances can make a difference in meaning.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Does 'prior' imply a higher level of formality?

Yes, it is generally more formal than 'previous.'
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Does 'prior' always imply something necessary?

Often, but it can simply mean something that came before.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Does 'prior' imply a sequence of events?

It can, especially when used to indicate something necessary before another event.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Can 'previous' be used in a legal context?

It can be, but 'prior' is more common in such contexts.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Is 'prior' used in academic writing?

Yes, particularly when referring to earlier research or studies.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Is 'prior' used in everyday conversation?

It's less common in casual speech compared to 'previous.'
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Can 'previous' refer to something long before?

Yes, but it's more commonly used for recent or directly preceding events.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

Can 'previous' indicate a former state or condition?

Yes, like "previous health condition."
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 06, 2023

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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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