before property CSS Reference

Definition and Usage

::before creates a pseudo-element that is the first child of the element matched. Often used to add cosmetic content to an element, by using the content property. This element is inline by default.


element:before  { style properties }  /* CSS2 obsolete syntax (only needed to support outdated browsers) */
element::before { style properties }  /* CSS3 syntax */

The ::before notation was introduced in CSS 3 in order to establish a discrimination between pseudo-classes and pseudo-elements. Browsers also accept the notation :before introduced in CSS 2.


Adding quotation marks

One simple example of using psuedo-elements is to provide quotation marks. Here we use both ::before and ::before to insert quotation characters.CSS
q::before {
  content: "»";
  color: blue;
q::after {
  content: '«';
  color: red;
<q>Some quotes</q>, he said, <q>are better than none</q>.

To-do list

In this example we will create a simple todo list using psuedo-elements. This method can often be used to add small touches to the UI and improve user experience.JavaScript
var list = document.querySelector('ul');
list.addEventListener('click', function(ev) {
  if( === 'LI') {'done');
}, false);
  <li>Buy milk</li>
  <li>Take the dog for a walk</li>
  <li>Write code</li>
  <li>Play music</li>
li {
  list-style-type: none;
  position: relative;
  margin: 1px;
  padding: 0.5em 0.5em 0.5em 2em;
  background: grey;
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;


Desktop browsers

Feature Chrome Firefox (Gecko) Internet Explorer Opera Safari (WebKit)
:before support (Yes) 1.0 (1.7 or earlier) 8.0 4 4.0
::before support (Yes) 1.5 9.0 7 4.0
Support of animations and transitions 26 4.0 (2.0) Not supported Not supported Not supported

Mobile browsers

Feature Android Firefox Mobile (Gecko) IE Mobile Opera Mobile Safari Mobile
:before support NA NA NA NA NA
::before support NA NA NA NA 5.1
Support of animations and transitions 26 4.0 (4.0) Not supported Not supported Not supported

Relative articles