css – Is there a "previous sibling" selector?-ThrowExceptions

Exception or error:

The plus sign (+) is for the next sibling.

Is there an equivalent for the previous sibling?

How to solve:

No, there is no “previous sibling” selector.

On a related note, ~ is for general successor sibling (meaning the element comes after this one, but not necessarily immediately after) and is a CSS3 selector. + is for next sibling and is CSS2.1.

See Adjacent sibling combinator from Selectors Level 3 and 5.7 Adjacent sibling selectors from Cascading Style Sheets Level 2 Revision 1 (CSS 2.1) Specification.

###

I found a way to style all previous siblings (opposite of ~) that may work depending on what you need.

Let’s say you have a list of links and when hovering on one, all the previous ones should turn red. You can do it like this:

/* default link color is blue */
.parent a {
  color: blue;
}

/* prev siblings should be red */
.parent:hover a {
  color: red;
}
.parent a:hover,
.parent a:hover ~ a {
  color: blue;
}
<div class="parent">
  <a href="#">link</a>
  <a href="#">link</a>
  <a href="#">link</a>
  <a href="#">link</a>
  <a href="#">link</a>
</div>

###

Selectors level 4 introduces :has() (previously the subject indicator !) which will allow you to select a previous sibling with:

previous:has(+ next) {}

… but at the time of writing, it is some distance beyond the bleeding edge for browser support.

###

Consider the order property of flex and grid layouts.

I’ll focus on flexbox in the examples below, but the same concepts apply to Grid.


With flexbox, a previous sibling selector can be simulated.

In particular, the flex order property can move elements around the screen.

Here’s an example:

You want element A to turn red when element B is hovered.

<ul>
    <li>A</li>
    <li>B</li>
</ul>

STEPS

  1. Make the ul a flex container.

    ul { display: flex; }
    

  1. Reverse the order of siblings in the mark-up.

    <ul>
       <li>B</li>
       <li>A</li>
    </ul>
    

  1. Use a sibling selector to target Element A (~ or + will do) .

    li:hover + li { background-color: red; }
    

  1. Use the flex order property to restore the order of siblings on the visual display.

    li:last-child { order: -1; }
    

…and voilà! A previous sibling selector is born (or at least simulated).

Here’s the full code:

ul {
    display: flex;
}

li:hover + li {
    background-color: red;
}

li:last-child {
    order: -1;
}

/* non-essential decorative styles */
li {
    height: 200px;
    width: 200px;
    background-color: aqua;
    margin: 5px;
    list-style-type: none;
    cursor: pointer;
}
<ul>
    <li>B</li>
    <li>A</li>
</ul>

From the flexbox spec:

5.4. Display Order: the order property

Flex items are, by default, displayed and laid out in the same order as they appear in the source document. The
order property can be used to change this ordering.

The order property controls the order in which flex items appear within the flex container, by assigning them to ordinal groups. It takes a single <integer> value, which specifies which ordinal group the flex item
belongs to.

The initial order value for all flex items is 0.

Also see order in the CSS Grid Layout spec.


Examples of “previous sibling selectors” created with the flex order property.

.container { display: flex; }

.box5 { order: 1; }    
.box5:hover + .box4 { background-color: orangered; font-size: 1.5em; }

.box6 { order: -4; }
.box7 { order: -3; }
.box8 { order: -2; }
.box9 { order: -1; }
.box9:hover ~ :not(.box12):nth-child(-1n+5) { background-color: orangered;
                                              font-size: 1.5em; }
.box12 { order: 2; }
.box12:hover ~ :nth-last-child(-1n+2) { background-color: orangered;
                                        font-size: 1.5em; }
.box21 { order: 1; }
.box21:hover ~ .box { background-color: orangered; font-size: 1.5em; }

/* non-essential decorative styles */
.container {
    padding: 5px;
    background-color: #888;
}
.box {
    height: 50px;
    width: 75px;
    margin: 5px;
    background-color: lightgreen;
    display: flex;
    justify-content: center;
    align-items: center;
    text-align: center;
    cursor: pointer;
}
<p>
Using the flex <code>order</code> property to construct a previous sibling selector
</p>

<div class="container">
    <div class="box box1"><span>1</span></div>
    <div class="box box2"><span>2</span></div>
    <div class="box box3"><span>3</span></div>
    <div class="box box5"><span>HOVER ME</span></div>
    <div class="box box4"><span>4</span></div>
</div>

<br>

<div class="container">
    <div class="box box9"><span>HOVER ME</span></div>
    <div class="box box12"><span>HOVER ME</span></div>
    <div class="box box6"><span>6</span></div>
    <div class="box box7"><span>7</span></div>
    <div class="box box8"><span>8</span></div>
    <div class="box box10"><span>10</span></div>
    <div class="box box11"><span>11</span></div>
</div>

<br>

<div class="container">
    <div class="box box21"><span>HOVER ME</span></div>
    <div class="box box13"><span>13</span></div>
    <div class="box box14"><span>14</span></div>
    <div class="box box15"><span>15</span></div>
    <div class="box box16"><span>16</span></div>
    <div class="box box17"><span>17</span></div>
    <div class="box box18"><span>18</span></div>
    <div class="box box19"><span>19</span></div>
    <div class="box box20"><span>20</span></div>
</div>

jsFiddle


A Side Note – Two Outdated Beliefs about CSS

Flexbox is shattering long-held beliefs about CSS.

One such belief is that a previous sibling selector is not possible in CSS.

To say this belief is widespread would be an understatement. Here’s a sampling of related questions on Stack Overflow alone:

As described above, this belief is not entirely true. A previous sibling selector can be simulated in CSS using the flex order property.

The z-index Myth

Another long-standing belief has been that z-index works only on positioned elements.

In fact, the most current version of the spec – the W3C Editor’s Draft – still asserts this to be true:

9.9.1 Specifying the stack level: the z-index
property

z-index

  • Value: auto | | inherit
  • Initial: auto
  • Applies to: positioned elements
  • Inherited: no
  • Percentages: N/A
  • Media: visual
  • Computed value: as specified

(emphasis added)

In reality, however, this information is obsolete and inaccurate.

Elements that are flex items or grid items can create stacking contexts even when position is static.

4.3. Flex Item Z-Ordering

Flex items paint exactly the same as inline blocks, except that order-modified document order is used in place of raw
document order, and z-index values other than auto create a stacking context even if position is static.

5.4. Z-axis Ordering: the z-index property

The painting order of grid items is exactly the same as inline blocks, except that order-modified document order is
used in place of raw document order, and z-index values other than auto create a stacking context even if
position is static.

Here’s a demonstration of z-index working on non-positioned flex items: https://jsfiddle.net/m0wddwxs/

###

I had the same question, but then I had a “duh” moment. Instead of writing

x ~ y

write

y ~ x

Obviously this matches “x” instead of “y”, but it answers the “is there a match?” question, and simple DOM traversal may get you to the right element more efficiently than looping in javascript.

I realize that the original question was a CSS question so this answer is probably completely irrelevant, but other Javascript users may stumble on the question via search like I did.

###

Two tricks. Basically inverting the HTML order of your desired elements in HTML and using
~ Next siblings operator:

float-right + inverse the order of HTML elements

div{ /* Do with the parent whatever you know just to make the
  inner float-right elements appear where desired */
  display:inline-block;
}
span{
  float:right;  /* float-right the elements! */
}
span:hover ~ span{ /* On hover target it's "previous";) elements */
  background:red;
} 
<div>
  <!-- Reverse the order of inner elements -->
  <span>5</span>
  <span>4</span>
  <span>3</span>
  <span>2</span>
  <span>1</span>
</div>

Parent with direction: rtl; + inverse the order of inner elements

.inverse{
  direction: rtl;
  display: inline-block; /* inline-block to keep parent at the left of window */
}
span:hover ~ span{ /* On hover target it's "previous";) elements */
  background:gold;
}
Hover one span and see the previous elements being targeted!<br>

<div class="inverse">
  <!-- Reverse the order of inner elements -->
  <span>5</span>
  <span>4</span>
  <span>3</span>
  <span>2</span>
  <span>1</span>
</div>

###

+ is for the next sibling. Is there an equivalent for the previous
sibling?

You can use the two axe selectors: ! and ?

There are 2 subsequent sibling selectors in conventional CSS:

  • + is the immediate subsequent sibling selector
  • ~ is the any subsequent sibling selector

In conventional CSS, there is no previous sibling selector.

However, in the axe CSS post-processor library, there are 2 previous sibling selectors:

  • ? is the immediate previous sibling selector (opposite of +)
  • ! is the any previous sibling selector (opposite of ~)

Working Example:

In the example below:

  • .any-subsequent:hover ~ div selects any subsequent div
  • .immediate-subsequent:hover + div selects the immediate subsequent div
  • .any-previous:hover ! div selects any previous div
  • .immediate-previous:hover ? div selects the immediate previous div
div {
  display: inline-block;
  width: 60px;
  height: 100px;
  color: rgb(255, 255, 255);
  background-color: rgb(255, 0, 0);
  text-align: center;
  vertical-align: top;
  cursor: pointer;
  opacity: 0;
  transition: opacity 0.6s ease-out;
}

code {
  display: block;
  margin: 4px;
  font-size: 24px;
  line-height: 24px;
  background-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.5);
}

div:nth-of-type(-n+4) {
  background-color: rgb(0, 0, 255);
}

div:nth-of-type(n+3):nth-of-type(-n+6) {
  opacity: 1;
}

.any-subsequent:hover ~ div,
.immediate-subsequent:hover + div,
.any-previous:hover ! div,
.immediate-previous:hover ? div {
  opacity: 1;
}
<h2>Hover over any of the blocks below</h2>

<div></div>
<div></div>

<div class="immediate-previous">Hover for <code>?</code> selector</div>
<div class="any-previous">Hover for <code>!</code> selector</div>
<div class="any-subsequent">Hover for <code>~</code> selector</div>
<div class="immediate-subsequent">Hover for <code>+</code> selector</div>

<div></div>
<div></div>

<script src="https://rouninmedia.github.io/axe/axe.js"></script>

###

Another flexbox solution

You can use inverse the order of elements in HTML. Then besides using order as in Michael_B’s answer you can use flex-direction: row-reverse; or flex-direction: column-reverse; depending on your layout.

Working sample:

.flex {
  display: flex;
  flex-direction: row-reverse;
   /* Align content at the "reversed" end i.e. beginning */
  justify-content: flex-end;
}

/* On hover target its "previous" elements */
.flex-item:hover ~ .flex-item {
  background-color: lime;
}

/* styles just for demo */
.flex-item {
  background-color: orange;
  color: white;
  padding: 20px;
  font-size: 3rem;
  border-radius: 50%;
}
<div class="flex">
  <div class="flex-item">5</div>
  <div class="flex-item">4</div>
  <div class="flex-item">3</div>
  <div class="flex-item">2</div>
  <div class="flex-item">1</div>
</div>

###

There is no official way to do that at the moment but you can use a little trick to achieve this ! Remember that it is experimental and it has some limitation …
(check this link if you worries about navigator compatibility )

What you can do is use a CSS3 selector : the pseudo classe called nth-child()

#list>* {
  display: inline-block;
  padding: 20px 28px;
  margin-right: 5px;
  border: 1px solid #bbb;
  background: #ddd;
  color: #444;
  margin: 0.4em 0;
}

#list :nth-child(-n+4) {
  color: #600b90;
  border: 1px dashed red;
  background: orange;
}
<p>The oranges elements are the previous sibling li selected using li:nth-child(-n+4)</p>

<div id="list">
  <span>1</span><!-- this will be selected -->
  <p>2</p><!-- this will be selected -->
  <p>3</p><!-- this will be selected -->
  <div>4</div><!-- this will be selected -->
  <div>5</div>
  <p>6</p>
  <p>7</p>
  <p>8</p>
  <p>9</p>
</div>

Limitations

  • You can’t select previous elements based on the classes of the next elements
  • This is the same for pseudo classes

###

If you know the exact position an :nth-child()-based exclusion of all following siblings would work.

ul li:not(:nth-child(n+3))

Which would select all lis before the 3rd (e.g. 1st and 2nd). But, in my opinion this looks ugly and has a very tight usecase.

You also could select the nth-child right-to-left:

ul li:nth-child(-n+2)

Which does the same.

###

There is no “previous” sibling selector unfortunately, but you can possibly still get the same effect by using positioning (e.g. float right). It depends on what you are trying to do.

In my case, I wanted a primarily CSS 5-star rating system. I would need to color (or swap the icon of) the previous stars. By floating each element right, I am essentially getting the same effect (the html for the stars thus must be written ‘backwards’).

I’m using FontAwesome in this example and swapping between the unicodes of fa-star-o and fa-star
http://fortawesome.github.io/Font-Awesome/

CSS:

.fa {
    display: inline-block;
    font-family: FontAwesome;
    font-style: normal;
    font-weight: normal;
    line-height: 1;
    -webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased;
    -moz-osx-font-smoothing: grayscale;
}

/* set all stars to 'empty star' */
.stars-container {
    display: inline-block;      
}   

/* set all stars to 'empty star' */
.stars-container .star {
    float: right;
    display: inline-block;
    padding: 2px;
    color: orange;
    cursor: pointer;

}

.stars-container .star:before {
    content: "\f006"; /* fontAwesome empty star code */
}

/* set hovered star to 'filled star' */
.star:hover:before{
    content: "\f005"; /* fontAwesome filled star code */
}

/* set all stars after hovered to'filled star' 
** it will appear that it selects all after due to positioning */
.star:hover ~ .star:before {
    content: "\f005"; /* fontAwesome filled star code */
}

HTML:

(40)

JSFiddle: http://jsfiddle.net/andrewleyva/88j0105g/

###

No. It is not possible via CSS. It takes the “Cascade” to heart ;-).


However, if you are able to add JavaScript to your page, a little bit of jQuery could get you to your end goal.
You can use jQuery’s find to perform a “look-ahead” on your target element/class/id, then backtrack to select your target.
Then you use jQuery to re-write the DOM (CSS) for your element.

Based on this answer by Mike Brant,
the following jQuery snippet could help.

$('p + ul').prev('p')

This first selects all <ul>s that immediately follow a <p>.
Then it “backtracks” to select all the previous <p>s from that set of <ul>s.

Effectively, “previous sibling” has been selected via jQuery.
Now, use the .css function to pass in your CSS new values for that element.


In my case I was looking to find a way to select a DIV with the id #full-width, but ONLY if it had a (indirect) descendant DIV with the class of .companies.

I had control of all the HTML under .companies, but could not alter any of the HTML above it.
And the cascade goes only 1 direction: down.

Thus I could select ALL #full-widths.
Or I could select .companies that only followed a #full-width.
But I could not select only #full-widths that proceeded .companies.

And, again, I was unable to add .companies any higher up in the HTML. That part of the HTML was written externally, and wrapped our code.

But with jQuery, I can select the required #full-widths, then assign the appropriate style:

$("#full-width").find(".companies").parents("#full-width").css( "width", "300px" );

This finds all #full-width .companies, and selects just those .companies, similar to how selectors are used to target specific elements in standard in CSS.
Then it uses .parents to “backtrack” and select ALL parents of .companies,
but filters those results to keep only #fill-width elements, so that in the end,
it only selects a #full-width element if it has a .companies class descendant.
Finally, it assigns a new CSS (width) value to the resulting element.

$(".parent").find(".change-parent").parents(".parent").css( "background-color", "darkred");
div {
  background-color: lightblue;
  width: 120px;
  height: 40px;
  border: 1px solid gray;
  padding: 5px;
}
.wrapper {
  background-color: blue;
  width: 250px;
  height: 165px;
}
.parent {
  background-color: green;
  width: 200px;
  height: 70px;
}
<script src="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/jquery/3.3.1/jquery.min.js"></script>
<html>
<div class="wrapper">

  <div class="parent">
    "parent" turns red
    <div class="change-parent">
    descendant: "change-parent"
    </div>
  </div>
  
  <div class="parent">
    "parent" stays green
    <div class="nope">
    descendant: "nope"
    </div>
  </div>
  
</div>
Target <b>"<span style="color:darkgreen">parent</span>"</b> to turn <span style="color:red">red</span>.<br>
<b>Only</b> if it <b>has</b> a descendant of "change-parent".<br>
<br>
(reverse cascade, look ahead, parent un-descendant)
</html>

jQuery Reference Docs:
$() or jQuery(): DOM element.
.find: Get the descendants of each element in the current set of matched elements, filtered by a selector, jQuery object, or element.
.parents: Get the immediately preceding sibling of each element in the set of matched elements. If a selector is provided, it retrieves the previous sibling only if it matches that selector (filters the results to only include the listed elements/selectors).
.css: Set one or more CSS properties for the set of matched elements.

###

Depending on your exact objective, there is a way to achieve the usefulness of a parent selector without using one (even if one were to exist)…

Say we have:

<div>
  <ul>
    <li><a>Pants</a></li>
    <li><a>Socks</a></li>
    <ul>
      <li><a>White socks</a></li>
      <li><a>Blue socks</a></li>
    </ul>
  </ul>
</div>

What can we do to make the Socks block (including sock colours) stand out visually using spacing?

What would be nice but doesn’t exist:

ul li ul:parent {
  margin-top: 15px;
  margin-bottom: 15px;
}

What does exist:

li > a {
  margin-top: 15px;
  display: block;
}
li > a:only-child {
  margin-top: 0px;
}

This sets all anchor links to have 15px margin on the top and resets it back to 0 for those with no UL elements (or other tags) inside LIs.

###

I needed a solution to select the previous sibling tr. I came up with this solution using React and Styled-components. This is not my exact solution (This is from memory, hours later). I know there is a flaw in the setHighlighterRow function.

OnMouseOver a row will set the row index to state, and rerender the previous row with a new background color

class ReactClass extends Component {
  constructor() {
    this.state = {
       highlightRowIndex: null
    }
  }

  setHighlightedRow = (index) => {
    const highlightRowIndex = index === null ? null : index - 1;
    this.setState({highlightRowIndex});
  }

  render() {
    return (
       <Table>
        <Tbody>
           {arr.map((row, index) => {
                const isHighlighted = index === this.state.highlightRowIndex
                return {
                    <Trow 
                        isHighlighted={isHighlighted}
                        onMouseOver={() => this.setHighlightedRow(index)}
                        onMouseOut={() => this.setHighlightedRow(null)}
                        >
                        ...
                    </Trow>
                }
           })}  
        </Tbody>   
       </Table>
    )
  }
}

const Trow = styled.tr`
    & td {
        background-color: ${p => p.isHighlighted ? 'red' : 'white'};
    }

    &:hover {
        background-color: red;
    }
`;

###

I had a similar problem and found out that all problem of this nature can be solved as follows:

  1. give all your items a style.
  2. give your selected item a style.
  3. give next items a style using + or ~.

and this way you’ll be able to style your current, previous items(all items overridden with current and next items) and your next items.

example:

/* all items (will be styled as previous) */
li {
  color: blue;
}

/* the item i want to distinguish */
li.milk {
  color: red;
}

/* next items */
li ~ li  {
  color: green;
}


<ul>
  <li>Tea</li>
  <li class="milk">Milk</li>
  <li>Juice</li>
  <li>others</li>
</ul>

Hope it helps someone.

###

This is what I used by using jQuery

    $('.child-selector').hover( function() {
        $(this).prev().addClass('hovered');
        $(this).addClass('hovered');
        $(this).next().removeClass('hovered');
    });

This is how will get the working codes:

enter image description here

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