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How one can say that a date must happen before other date, for intance:

The X starting date should be prior to the Y starting date.

Is this sentence idiomatic or there is another way of stating that ?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

You can say that one should precede the other.

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On reflection, I like this answer as an alternative. – Tony Balmforth Jul 18 '12 at 11:02

Your example makes perfect sense to me; I can see no need to vary it.

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There's certainly nothing wrong with using words like prior and precede in OP's context, but they're not exactly everyday language for the masses. In common parlance, people are much more likely to say something like...

X should be earlier than Y


X must come before Y

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In the world of project management, you would say

The Y starting date depends upon the X starting date.

See this glossary of Project Management terms. (It does not define "depends upon" but rather uses it axiomatically.)

Depends upon would be stronger than the modal ("should be") that the OP employed. If you used the sentence above, you would be saying that the starting date of X must (not should) be prior to the starting date of Y.

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