How to use the PHP date function to format date and time

With the PHP date() function, you can dynamically display both date and time in nearly any preferred format. This proves particularly useful for presenting publication dates, creating countdown timers, and handling various time-related information.

What is PHP date?

PHP date is a built-in function for formatting dates and times. It works by producing a string that represents the date and time, depending on the parameters you specify. For example, you can use the date() function to display current or future dates and times on a web page. If you retrieve information from a MySQL database using PHP, date() can convert it into a readable format. This is useful for blog posts or news articles.


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This is the syntax of the date() function in PHP

The syntax of the PHP date() function is as follows:

date(format, timestamp);

Which parameters does PHP date accept?

The date() function has one mandatory and one optional parameter.

  • format: PHP date format is a string parameter that specifies how the date and time should be formatted
  • Y: represents the year in 4 digits (e.g. 2023)
  • m: the month as a number starting at zero (01 to 12)
  • d: the day of the month as a number starting at zero (01 to 31)
  • H: the hour in a 24-hour format (00 to 23)
  • i: the minute (00 to 59)
  • s: the second (00 to 59)
  • timestamp: This parameter is optional and should be provided as an integer timestamp. If you choose not to include this parameter, the function will default to using the current system time.

A UNIX timestamp (also known as a POSIX timestamp) is a simple integer that represents the number of seconds since January 1, 1970 at 00:00:00 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). This timestamp is a common standard in computer science as it is independent of time zones and makes it possible to perform simple calculations using time information.

To learn more about PHP programming, take a look at our PHP tutorial. Check out the advantages and disadvantages of PHP vs. Python and PHP vs. JavaScript.


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Examples for using the PHP date() function

The PHP date() function is a powerful tool for formatting dates and times. It can be used in combination with PHP classes, operators and functions to achieve comprehensive functionality in your web application.

Concatenate date and time

You can use PHP operators such as the concatenation operator to combine date and time values with other strings or variables.

$today = date('Y-m-d'); // current year, month and day
$message = 'The current date is: ' . $today;
echo $message;

Generate and customize timestamps

Strtotime() is one of the PHP functions allowing you to generate a timestamp from a string that identifies a date or time. You can then format this timestamp using the date() function.

$dateString = '2023-08-19';
$timestamp = strtotime($dateString);
$formattedDate = date('l, F j, Y', $timestamp);
echo $formattedDate;

The result is:

Saturday, August 19, 2023

The PHP DateTime class

The DateTime class represents an object-oriented method for working with date and time values, the functionality of which is analogous to the date() function. Here is an example:

$now = new DateTime();
$formattedDate = $now->format('l, F j, Y H:i:s');
echo $formattedDate;

First, we create a DateTime object called $now that represents the current date and time. Then we use the format() method of the PHP DateTime object to display the date and time in the desired format. Finally, we output the formatted date.

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