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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"?

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    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

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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.

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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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