When comparing two dates, what term is best used to say that one should come before the other?

For example, a user of my application can input two dates, that form a time interval. Obviously the "start date" has to be a valid date that comes before the "end date", so when the user enters these wrong I show him an error message. But, since English is not my native language, I don't know that comparison term to use.

Can a date be said to be "smaller" than another date? Or should I use something like "anterior", or "earlier"?

  • 2
    Can use should precede; be earlier; even before, but not smaller, anterior (in front of).
    – Kris
    May 7, 2014 at 6:55

2 Answers 2


A reasonable message would be:

The Start Date must be before the End Date

Other possible words are predate and precede. But the above phrase is the way it's said colloquially.


The corresponding instruction might read:

  • Enter the start date and the end date, in chronological order

  • Enter the (earlier) start date, and then the (later) end date

  • First enter the start date, and then the end date

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