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Creating and handling dates with PHP date

Next, we will see how to use PHP’s date function and how to format it to be displayed:



In PHP we can both create and format a date using the date() function.

Its syntax is as follows:

Sinopsis / Synopsis
date ( string $format [, int $timestamp = time() ] ) : string

As you can see in the date function, it has 2 parameters, 1 optional, and it returns a string.

$format defines the format of our date, for example, day-month-year.

$timestamp is a UNIX timestamp value that represents the date. If this parameter is not provided, it will take the default value which is the current time using the time() function.

The time() function returns the current Unix timestamp value, but please note that this date is not the date of your user, it’s the date of the server.


Having explained this, let’s see the formats for the first parameter:

format character Description Example returned values
d Day of the month, 2 digits with leading zeros 01 to 31
D A textual representation of a day, three letters Mon through Sun
j Day of the month without leading zeros 1 to 31
l (lowercase ‘L’) A full textual representation of the day of the week Sunday through Saturday
N ISO 8601 numeric representation of the day of the week 1 (for Monday) through 7 (for Sunday)
S English ordinal suffix for the day of the month, 2 characters st, nd, rd or th. Works well with j
w Numeric representation of the day of the week 0 (for Sunday) through 6 (for Saturday)
z The day of the year (starting from 0) 0 through 365
W ISO 8601 week number of year, weeks starting on Monday Example: 42 (the 42nd week in the year)
F A full textual representation of a month, such as January or March January through December
m Numeric representation of a month, with leading zeros 01 through 12
M A short textual representation of a month, three letters Jan through Dec
n Numeric representation of a month, without leading zeros 1 through 12
t Number of days in the given month 28 through 31
L Whether it’s a leap year 1 if it is a leap year, 0 otherwise.
o ISO 8601 week-numbering year. This has the same value as Y, except that if the ISO week number (W) belongs to the previous or next year, that year is used instead. Examples: 1999 or 2003
X An expanded full numeric representation of a year, at least 4 digits, with for years BCE, and + for years CE. Examples: -0055, +0787, +1999, +10191
x An expanded full numeric representation if requried, or a standard full numeral representation if possible (like Y). At least four digits. Years BCE are prefixed with a . Years beyond (and including) 10000 are prefixed by a +. Examples: -0055, 0787, 1999, +10191
Y A full numeric representation of a year, at least 4 digits, with for years BCE. Examples: -0055, 0787, 1999, 2003, 10191
y A two digit representation of a year Examples: 99 or 03
a Lowercase Ante meridiem and Post meridiem am or pm
A Uppercase Ante meridiem and Post meridiem AM or PM
B Swatch Internet time 000 through 999
g 12-hour format of an hour without leading zeros 1 through 12
G 24-hour format of an hour without leading zeros 0 through 23
h 12-hour format of an hour with leading zeros 01 through 12
H 24-hour format of an hour with leading zeros 00 through 23
i Minutes with leading zeros 00 to 59
s Seconds with leading zeros 00 through 59
u Microseconds. Note that date() will always generate 000000 since it takes an int parameter, whereas DateTime::format() does support microseconds if DateTime was created with microseconds. Example: 654321
v Milliseconds. Same note applies as for u. Example: 654
e Timezone identifier Examples: UTC, GMT, Atlantic/Azores
I (capital i) Whether or not the date is in daylight saving time 1 if Daylight Saving Time, 0 otherwise.
O Difference to Greenwich time (GMT) without colon between hours and minutes Example: +0200
P Difference to Greenwich time (GMT) with colon between hours and minutes Example: +02:00
p The same as P, but returns Z instead of +00:00 (available as of PHP 8.0.0) Examples: Z or +02:00
T Timezone abbreviation, if known; otherwise the GMT offset. Examples: EST, MDT, +05
Z Timezone offset in seconds. The offset for timezones west of UTC is always negative, and for those east of UTC is always positive. -43200 through 50400
Full Date/Time
c ISO 8601 date 2004-02-12T15:19:21+00:00
r » RFC 2822/» RFC 5322 formatted date Example: Thu, 21 Dec 2000 16:01:07 +0200
U Seconds since the Unix Epoch (January 1 1970 00:00:00 GMT) See also time()

La tabla anterior es tal cual una referencia a la tabla que hay en la página de PHP.

Ejemplos de la función date()

echo "<h1>Ejemplos con date</h1>";

echo "<p>con formato dia mes año</p>";
echo date("d-m-y");
echo "</br>";
echo date("d-m-Y");
echo "<p>Un ejemplo con timestamp:</p>";
echo date("d-m-Y",0);
echo "<h2>Manejando horarios</h2>";
echo "<p>hora de ahora</p>";
echo "<p>Horas de 0 a 23</p>";
echo date("H:i:s");
echo "<p>Horas de 0 a 12</p>";
echo date("h:i:s");
echo "<p>Algo más complejo</p>";
echo date("l d, F Y H:i:s");

The separators in the date format are indicated by symbols such as ., , -, /, and even space. Let’s take a look at another example to illustrate this further:

echo date("l:. d:. F:. Y:.");

¿What is the Timestamp?

Before finishing the topic of the date() function, note that in the example where we pass a timestamp, it will give us the date of December 31, 1969.

This is the Unix time:

Unix time or POSIX time is a system for describing points in time. It is defined as the number of seconds that have elapsed since midnight UTC on January 1, 1970.

In other words, the first date will be January 1, 1970, Greenwich location. More specifically, it would be Date (UTC)Jan 1, 1970, 00:00:00.

Let’s do 2 more examples with this date.

echo date("d-m-Y H:i:s",0);
echo date("d-m-Y H:i:s",1);
01-01-1970 00:00:00
01-01-1970 00:00:01

Why the example does not give the correct day?, as that depends on the time zone, if we set it to the London time zone it should give us the correct date.

We can do this with the function date_default_timezone_set(‘UTC’); or date_default_timezone_set(‘Europe/London’);


Utilizando strtotime()

Now, if I have a date as a string, how can I pass it to the date function? Obviously, I’m not going to calculate the timestamp to pass it.

The strtotime() function allows us to pass a date in string format and convert it to a timestamp (int). The format that must be passed to this function is in English, "m/d/y" or "y-m-d".

Let’s make some examples of strtotime():

echo date("jS F, Y", strtotime("11/12/10"))."\n";
echo date("jS F, Y", strtotime("11-12-10")); 
12th November, 2010
10th December, 2011

Other interesting things we can do with strtotime is to pass a string like "+2 month", for example.

We can even pass a date plus another string, for example, "10/10/10 +1 day" or "next Monday", both of which should work.

echo date("jS F, Y", strtotime("10/10/10 +1 day")); 
11th October, 2010

Finally, I want to make it clear that there are libraries that can greatly assist with date management, such as Carbon, which can be found on

Category: en-php
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