Revamp Your SQL Game: Learn How to Format Dates in MySQL with These Easy Code Examples

Table of content

  1. Introduction
  2. Getting Started with Date Formatting in MySQL
  3. Formatting Dates using DATE_FORMAT() Function
  4. Changing Date Format using STR_TO_DATE() Function
  5. Converting Date and Time Values using UNIX_TIMESTAMP() Function
  6. Working with Time Zones using CONVERT_TZ() Function
  7. Conclusion
  8. Further Reading


If you're working with MySQL, understanding how to format dates is an essential skill to have. Thankfully, it's not as difficult as it may seem, and with a little bit of practice and some examples, you can quickly revamp your SQL game.

Dates are typically stored in the format of year-month-day, but there are different ways to display them depending on your needs. For example, you might want to display the month as a name rather than a number or include the time as well.

In this article, we'll go over some basic code examples that will show you how to format dates in MySQL. We'll cover the most commonly used formats and give you tips on how to customize them based on your specific needs. By the end of this guide, you'll be able to handle date formatting like a pro!

Getting Started with Date Formatting in MySQL

To format dates in MySQL, you first need to understand the date and time data type. In MySQL, the default format for a date is YYYY-MM-DD, while the default format for a time is HH:MM:SS. When working with dates in MySQL, it is essential to use the correct data type, as this can impact the accuracy of your results.

One way to start formatting dates in MySQL is by using the DATE_FORMAT function. This function allows you to convert dates into a format of your choosing. The syntax for the function is as follows:


Where date is the date you want to format, and format is the format string you want to use. The format string uses special codes to represent different parts of the date, such as %Y for the year, %m for the month, %d for the day, and so on.

For example, to format a date as "Month Day, Year", you would use the following code:

SELECT DATE_FORMAT('2022-10-31','%M %e, %Y');

This would output "October 31, 2022".

It's important to note that the DATE_FORMAT function only works with the date data type. If you want to format a time, you can use the TIME_FORMAT function instead.

In addition to the DATE_FORMAT and TIME_FORMAT functions, there are many other date and time functions you can use in MySQL, such as DATE_ADD, DATE_SUB, NOW, and UNIX_TIMESTAMP. Learning how to use these functions can help you manipulate and format dates and times in a variety of ways, making your MySQL queries more powerful and flexible.

Formatting Dates using DATE_FORMAT() Function

To format dates in MySQL, the DATE_FORMAT() function is an incredibly useful tool. This function takes two arguments – the date to be formatted and the format string that specifies how the date should be displayed. The syntax for using the DATE_FORMAT() function is as follows:

SELECT DATE_FORMAT(date, format) FROM table_name;

In the above example, "date" is the name of the column that contains the date to be formatted, "format" is the format string that specifies how the date should be displayed, and "table_name" is the name of the table that contains the date column.

The format string can contain a variety of different formatting codes, which are used to represent different components of date and time. For example, the code "%Y" represents the year in a four-digit format, while "%d" represents the day of the month in a two-digit format. Some other commonly used codes include "%m" for the month, "%H" for the hour in 24-hour format, and "%i" for the minutes.

Here's an example of how the DATE_FORMAT() function can be used to display a date in a specific format:

SELECT DATE_FORMAT('2022-01-01', '%d-%m-%Y') AS formatted_date;

In this example, the input date is "2022-01-01" and the format string is "%d-%m-%Y". This format string specifies that the day should be displayed first, followed by the month and then the year, separated by dashes. The output of this query would be "01-01-2022".

Overall, the DATE_FORMAT() function is a powerful and flexible tool for formatting dates in MySQL. By using different formatting codes in the format string, you can display dates in a wide variety of formats to suit your needs.

Changing Date Format using STR_TO_DATE() Function

The STR_TO_DATE() function is a powerful tool in MySQL that allows you to easily change date formats. It converts a formatted date string to a MySQL DATETIME value. This is useful when you have imported data from other systems with different date formats or when you want to display dates in a different format.

The syntax for STR_TO_DATE() is as follows:

STR_TO_DATE(date_string, format_string)

where date_string is the date string you want to convert, and format_string is the format of the date string.

For example, let's say you have a date string in the format "dd/mm/yyyy", but you want to convert it to the MySQL DATETIME format of "yyyy-mm-dd". You can use the following code:

SELECT STR_TO_DATE('31/12/2021', '%d/%m/%Y');

This will output the date 2021-12-31 in the MySQL DATETIME format. The "%d", "%m", and "%Y" format specifiers are used to indicate the format of the date string.

You can also use the STR_TO_DATE() function in conjunction with the DATE_FORMAT() function to format dates in a different way. For example, if you want to display the date in the format "dd Month yyyy", you can use the following code:

SELECT DATE_FORMAT(STR_TO_DATE('31/12/2021', '%d/%m/%Y'), '%d %M %Y');

This will output the date as "31 December 2021".

In conclusion, the STR_TO_DATE() function is a versatile tool that allows you to change the format of dates in MySQL. By using the format specifiers, you can easily convert date strings to the MySQL DATETIME format or display dates in a different format.

Converting Date and Time Values using UNIX_TIMESTAMP() Function

When working with dates and times in MySQL, it's important to know how to convert them into the correct format. Luckily, the UNIX_TIMESTAMP() function makes it easy to do just that.

The UNIX_TIMESTAMP() function takes a date or time value and converts it into a UNIX timestamp, which is a numeric value representing the number of seconds that have elapsed since January 1st, 1970. This format is widely used in programming and is easy to manipulate and compare.

To use the UNIX_TIMESTAMP() function, simply pass in a date or time value as its argument. For example:

SELECT UNIX_TIMESTAMP('2021-07-12 14:30:00');

This will return the timestamp value for the date and time specified, which in this case is 1626109800.

You can also use the UNIX_TIMESTAMP() function in combination with other MySQL functions to perform more complex operations. For example, to convert a Unix timestamp back into a human-readable date and time format, you can use the FROM_UNIXTIME() function:


This will return the date and time in the following format: 2021-07-12 14:30:00.

By using the UNIX_TIMESTAMP() function, you can easily convert date and time values into a format that is easy to work with in MySQL.

Working with Time Zones using CONVERT_TZ() Function

When working with dates and times in MySQL, it's essential to consider the time zone so that data is represented accurately. Fortunately, the CONVERT_TZ() function is available in MySQL to help you manipulate time values and convert them to a specific time zone.

The CONVERT_TZ() function takes three arguments: the original date or time value, the current time zone, and the desired time zone. The function returns the converted value in the desired time zone.

Here's an example of using the CONVERT_TZ() function to convert a timestamp from the UTC time zone to the Pacific Standard Time zone:

SELECT CONVERT_TZ(timestamp, 'UTC', 'America/Los_Angeles') AS pstdatetime FROM table_name;

In this example, the timestamp column in the table is converted from the UTC time zone to the Pacific Standard Time zone. The CONVERT_TZ() function takes the timestamp value and converts it to the desired time zone based on the current time zone in UTC and the desired time zone of America/Los_Angeles.

It's important to note that the CONVERT_TZ() function requires that the time zone data is in the timezone database that MySQL uses. You can check which time zones are available in MySQL by running this query:

SELECT * FROM mysql.time_zone_name;

By using the CONVERT_TZ() function, you can ensure that your date and time data is accurate and represented in the correct time zone. This feature is particularly important if you're working with data from multiple time zones, such as data from a multinational company or different parts of the world.


In , formatting dates in MySQL can seem like a daunting task, but with the right knowledge and tools, you can easily revamp your SQL game. By using the DATE_FORMAT() function and the various formatting options available, you can customize your date output to fit your specific needs. It's important to remember that the date format you choose should be consistent throughout your database to avoid any confusion or errors.

In addition, understanding how to convert dates between different formats using the STR_TO_DATE() and DATE_FORMAT() functions can save you time and effort in the long run. By mastering date formatting in MySQL, you'll be able to work with dates more efficiently and effectively, making you a more skilled and valuable programmer.

We hope that this guide has provided you with the knowledge and confidence to format dates in MySQL like a pro. Remember to experiment with different formatting options and don't be afraid to ask for help from your fellow developers or online communities. With practice and persistence, you'll be able to make your SQL database shine with perfectly formatted dates.

Further Reading

If you're looking to dive deeper into working with dates in MySQL, there are plenty of resources available to help you out. Here are a few recommended reads:

  • MySQL Date Functions: The official MySQL documentation provides a comprehensive list of date functions available in MySQL, along with examples of how to use them.
  • MySQL Date Formatting Tips & Tricks: This tutorial from provides a useful overview of different date formatting options available in MySQL, with clear code examples.
  • MySQL Date and Time Data Types: W3Schools provides a helpful overview of MySQL data types, including date and time data types. This is a great resource if you're new to MySQL and want to understand how different data types work.

By utilizing these free resources, you can improve your skills working with MySQL dates and times, develop more advanced code, and improve the overall effectiveness of your SQL queries.

My passion for coding started with my very first program in Java. The feeling of manipulating code to produce a desired output ignited a deep love for using software to solve practical problems. For me, software engineering is like solving a puzzle, and I am fully engaged in the process. As a Senior Software Engineer at PayPal, I am dedicated to soaking up as much knowledge and experience as possible in order to perfect my craft. I am constantly seeking to improve my skills and to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in the field. I have experience working with a diverse range of programming languages, including Ruby on Rails, Java, Python, Spark, Scala, Javascript, and Typescript. Despite my broad experience, I know there is always more to learn, more problems to solve, and more to build. I am eagerly looking forward to the next challenge and am committed to using my skills to create impactful solutions.

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