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In CSS, ::before creates a pseudo-element that is the first child of the selected element. It is often used to add cosmetic content to an element with the content property. It is inline by default.

/* Add a heart before links */
a::before {
  content: "";
}

Note: The pseudo-elements generated by ::before and ::after are contained by the element's formatting box, and thus don't apply to replaced elements such as <img>, or to <br> elements.

Syntax

/* CSS3 syntax */
::before

/* CSS2 syntax */
:before

Note: CSS3 introduced the ::before notation (with two colons) to distinguish pseudo-classes from pseudo-elements. Browsers also accept :before, introduced in CSS2.

Examples

Adding quotation marks

One simple example of using ::before pseudo-elements is to provide quotation marks. Here we use both ::before and ::after to insert quotation characters.

HTML

<q>Some quotes,</q> he said, <q>are better than none.</q>

CSS

q::before { 
  content: "«";
  color: blue;
}

q::after { 
  content: "»";
  color: red;
}

Result

Decorative example

We can style text or images in the content property almost any way we want.

HTML

<span class="ribbon">Notice where the orange box is.</span>

CSS

.ribbon {
  background-color: #5BC8F7;
}

.ribbon::before {
  content: "Look at this orange box.";
  background-color: #FFBA10;
  border-color: black;
  border-style: dotted;
}

Result

To-do list

In this example we will create a simple to-do list using pseudo-elements. This method can often be used to add small touches to the UI and improve user experience.

HTML

<ul>
  <li>Buy milk</li>
  <li>Take the dog for a walk</li>
  <li>Exercise</li>
  <li>Write code</li>
  <li>Play music</li>
  <li>Relax</li>
</ul>

CSS

li {
  list-style-type: none;
  position: relative;
  margin: 2px;
  padding: 0.5em 0.5em 0.5em 2em;
  background: lightgrey;
  font-family: sans-serif;
}

li.done {
  background: #CCFF99;
}

li.done::before {
  content: '';
  position: absolute;
  border-color: #009933;
  border-style: solid;
  border-width: 0 0.3em 0.25em 0;
  height: 1em;
  top: 1.3em;
  left: 0.6em;
  margin-top: -1em;
  transform: rotate(45deg);
  width: 0.5em;
}

JavaScript

var list = document.querySelector('ul');
list.addEventListener('click', function(ev) {
  if (ev.target.tagName === 'LI') {
     ev.target.classList.toggle('done'); 
  }
}, false);

Here is the above code example running live. Note that there are no icons used, and the check-mark is actually the ::before that has been styled in CSS. Go ahead and get some stuff done.

Result

Specifications

Specification Status Comment
CSS Pseudo-Elements Level 4
The definition of '::before' in that specification.
Working Draft No significant changes to the previous specification.
CSS Transitions Working Draft Allows transitions on properties defined on pseudo-elements.
CSS Animations Working Draft Allows animations on properties defined on pseudo-elements.
Selectors Level 3
The definition of '::before' in that specification.
Recommendation Introduces the two-colon syntax.
CSS Level 2 (Revision 1)
The definition of '::before' in that specification.
Recommendation Initial definition, using the one-colon syntax

Browser compatibility

Update compatibility data on GitHub
DesktopMobile
ChromeEdgeFirefoxInternet ExplorerOperaSafariAndroid webviewChrome for AndroidFirefox for AndroidOpera for AndroidSafari on iOSSamsung Internet
::beforeChrome Full support 1
Full support 1
Full support 1
Alternate Name
Alternate Name Uses the non-standard name: :before
Edge Full support 12
Full support 12
Full support 12
Alternate Name
Alternate Name Uses the non-standard name: :before
Firefox Full support 1.5
Notes
Full support 1.5
Notes
Notes Before Firefox 57, Firefox had a bug where ::before pseudo-elements were still generated, even if the content property value were set to normal or none.
Notes Before Firefox 3.5, only the CSS level 2 behavior of :before was supported, which disallowed position, float, list-style-* and some display properties.
Full support 1
Alternate Name
Alternate Name Uses the non-standard name: :before
IE Full support 9
Full support 9
Full support 8
Alternate Name
Alternate Name Uses the non-standard name: :before
Opera Full support 7
Full support 7
Full support 4
Alternate Name
Alternate Name Uses the non-standard name: :before
Safari Full support 4
Full support 4
Full support 4
Alternate Name
Alternate Name Uses the non-standard name: :before
WebView Android Full support ≤37
Full support ≤37
Full support ≤37
Alternate Name
Alternate Name Uses the non-standard name: :before
Chrome Android Full support 18
Full support 18
Full support 18
Alternate Name
Alternate Name Uses the non-standard name: :before
Firefox Android Full support 4
Notes
Full support 4
Notes
Notes Before Firefox 57, Firefox had a bug where ::before pseudo-elements were still generated, even if the content property value were set to normal or none.
Full support 4
Alternate Name
Alternate Name Uses the non-standard name: :before
Opera Android Full support 10.1
Full support 10.1
Full support 10.1
Alternate Name
Alternate Name Uses the non-standard name: :before
Safari iOS Full support 5.1Samsung Internet Android Full support 1.0
Full support 1.0
Full support 1.0
Alternate Name
Alternate Name Uses the non-standard name: :before
Animation and transition supportChrome Full support 26Edge Full support 12Firefox Full support 4IE No support NoOpera Full support 15Safari No support NoWebView Android Full support ≤37Chrome Android Full support 26Firefox Android Full support 4Opera Android Full support 14Safari iOS No support NoSamsung Internet Android Full support Yes

Legend

Full support  
Full support
No support  
No support
See implementation notes.
See implementation notes.
Uses a non-standard name.
Uses a non-standard name.

See also

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