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PHP Date Format

Reading time 4 min
Published Aug 14, 2017
Updated Oct 10, 2019

PHP Date Format: Main Tips

  • This date() function is used in formatting date and time in your code.
  • There are special formatting characters: PHP year, week, day, etc.
  • You can use it to make PHP get timestamp automatically and update the copyright dates on your website.

Syntax Rules Explained

The syntax rules for entering a date are rather simple:

date(format, timestamp)

The timestamp part describes an integer Unix timestamp. Entering it is optional - if you don't do it, it will result in making PHP get timestamp automatically and display the current local time (time()).

Now, for the format part, it's a different story. It is necessary to enter because that's how you specify how your PHP date formats will look.

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Common Formatting Characters

In PHP years, months and days are often referred to by using special symbols. There are four characters most commonly used with PHP date function:

  • d (01-31) represents the day number.
  • m (01-12) represents a month number.
  • Y (four digits) represents a year number.
  • l (lowercase 'L') indicates the day of the week.

More symbols (/, ., -) can be added for additional PHP date formatting.

In the code example below, you can see four different ways to create PHP date formats:

  echo "Today is " . date("Y/m/d") . "<br>";
  echo "Today is " . date("Y.m.d") . "<br>";
  echo "Today is " . date("Y-m-d") . "<br>";
  echo "Today is " . date("l");

Now, the four characters listed above might be the most commonly used with datetime PHP function, but your choices are not limited to them. Let's have a look at the whole list of characters you can use for PHP date formats and what they indicate:

Character Description
d The day of the month (01-31)
D Shows a day in three letter text
j Day of the month (without zeros in front; 1-31)
l (lowercase 'L') Displays the full name of a day
N Week day displayed in a numeric format (1 for Monday, 7 for Sunday)
S The suffix for a day of the month. (st, rd, th or nd) Can be combined with j to create 1st; 13th, etc.
w Week day displayed in a numeric format (0 for Sunday, 6 for Saturday)
z Number for a day of the year (0-365)
W The number for the current week of year (weeks start on Monday)
F A full name of a month (January, December, etc.)
m The number of a current month (01-12)
M The name of a month written in three letters
A numeric representation of a month, without leading zeros (1-12)
t Displays a number of days in the current month
L Displays 1 if it is a leap year, and 0 if it is not.
o The ISO-8601 year number
Y The current year displayed in four digits
y The current year displayed in two digits (the last two)
a Displays the time prefix (am/pm)
A Displays the time prefix in uppercase (AM/PM)
B Internet swatch time (000-999)
g Hours displayed in 12-hour format (1-12)
G Hours displayed in 24-hour format (0-23)
h Hours displayed in 12-hour format with leading zero (01-12)
H Hours displayed in 24-hour format. Uses leading zeros (00-23)
i Minutes displayed with leading zeros (00-59)
s Seconds displayed with leading zeros (00-59)
u Displays microseconds
e Displays the timezone (UTC, GMT, etc.)
I (capital i) Displays 1 if the date is in daylight savings time and 0 if it is not
O Displays the difference from the Greenwich time (GMT) (e.g.: +0200)
P Displays the difference from the Greenwich time (GMT) in hours:minutes
T Timezone abbreviations (e.g.: MDT, EST)
Z The timezone offset in seconds. From -43200 to 50400 (to the west from UTC is negative)
c The date in ISO-8601 format (e.g.: 2017-09-12T19:54:40+00:00)
r The date in RFC 2822 format (e.g.: Fri, 13 Jan 2017 18:09:10 +0200)
U Displays how many seconds had passed since Unix Time (January 1st, 1970, 00:00:00 GMT)

List of Predefined Constants

There are also a few predefined constants for datetime PHP that developers use. Take a look at the table below:

Constant Description
DATE_ATOM Atom (e.g.: 2017-09-12T19:12:11+00:00)
DATE_COOKIE HTTP Cookies (e.g.: Monday, 11-Apr-11 19:58:51 UTC)
DATE_ISO8601 ISO-8601 (example: 2017-09-12T12:12:11+0000)
DATE_RFC822 RFC 822 (e.g.: Mon, 11 Apr 14 19:11:15 +0000)
DATE_RFC850 RFC 850 (e.g.: Tuesday, 11-Apr-10 11:12:51 UTC)
DATE_RFC1036 RFC 1036 (e.g.: Mon, 11 Apr 11 19:42:31 +0000)
DATE_RFC1123 RFC 1123 (e.g.: Mon, 10 Apr 2018 13:32:01 +0000)
DATE_RFC2822 RFC 2822 (e.g.: Fri, 10 Apr 2017 18:53:31 +0000)
DATE_RFC3339 Same as DATE_ATOM (since PHP 5.1.3)
DATE_RSS RSS (e.g.: Mon, 12 Aug 2017 13:22:21 +0000)
DATE_W3C World Wide Web Consortium (e.g.: 2017-09-12T13:32:11+00:00)