If I have four moments in time (A, B, C, D), where moment D is the present, would previous, preceding, and prior be interchangeable as adjectives to refer to moments A-C? Is one of them more likely to refer to moment C, the moment immediately before the present?
The sources I've been searching (excluding OED, which I can't access) call them synonyms and/or interchangeable when meaning "before". One stipulation I've read and whose veracity I can't attest, states (in comparing prior and previous) that
usually 'prior experience' is experience of the same type.
That doesn't help me. My specific need is in referring to moments B and C but NOT moment A. I would say something like,
"Moment D is the same as the previous two moments", and the statement would unambiguously refer to moments B and C.
PS - I have very little space on the page to make this statement, which is why I can't be more specific.
Thanks for any usage advice or collocation stats on these terms.