PHP DateTime - Create, Format and Compare Dates with PHP

The DataTime object was released in PHP 5.2.0 and provides a more robust way of working with dates in PHP. It can be used to create new dates and format them and replaces the need to use separate date functions such as strtotime(), time() and date().


In this tutorial, we will learn how to create a date in PHP, format it in various ways and compare different DateTime objects.


Create a New Date with DateTime

Let's create a new date with DateTime, which will be based on the current time on your machine and will contain hours, months, days, hour, minutes and seconds.


$date = new DateTime();
echo $date->format('Y-m-d H:i:s');
2020-09-05 19:40:23


Now we know how to create a DateTime object we can use any of the DateTime methods to work with it.


DateTime Methods

Here are all the main methods available in PHP DateTime for reference.


  • format - format a date for printing.
  • add - adds a number of days, months, years, hours, minutes and seconds to a DateTime object
  • setTimezone - set a timezone in the format Timezone/Local
  • setTimestamp - set a timestamp to convert into a DateTime object
  • setTime - reset the current DateTime object time to a new time
  • createFromFormat - parses a time string according to a specified format
  • createFromImmutable - creates a mutable DateTime object from an immutable one
  • modify - increment or decrement the date in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years
  • setDate - resets the current date of the DateTime object to a different date
  • setISODate - resets the current date according to ISO 8601 standards
  • sub - subtract from the date in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years
  • diff - returns the difference between two DateTime objects
  • getOffset - returns a timezone offset
  • getTimestamp - get a Unix timestamp from the date
  • getTimezone - get timezone relative to current DateTime


Formatting Dates

You can format a date using any combination of the available DateTime format characters. Let's create a human-friendly date using the format method.


$date = new DateTime();
echo $date->format('D, dS M Y');
Sat, 05th Sep 2020


Adding and Subtracting Time from a Date

If you need to add or subtract, seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks or years with a date you can do this using the DateTime modify method. Let's add 1 day to a date.


$date = new DateTime('2020-09-09');
$date->modify('+1 day');
echo $date->format('Y-m-d H:i:s');
2020-09-10 00:00:00


Here is another example, this time subtracting 2 weeks from the date.


$date = new DateTime('2020-09-09');
$date->modify('-2 weeks');
echo $date->format('Y-m-d H:i:s');
2020-08-26 00:00:00


note - you must pass in the format method before printing the date.


Get Tomorrows Date in PHP

To get tomorrows date using DateTime we could do something like this.


$date = new DateTime();
$date->modify('+1 day');
echo $date->format('Y-m-d H:i:s');
2020-09-06 20:12:20


Create a Date in a Timezone

To create a new DateTime in a timezone, create a new DateTimeZone in the second parameter of DateTime.


$date = new DateTime('', new DateTimeZone('Europe/London'));
echo $date->format('Y-m-d H:i:s');
2020-09-05 21:31:42


To set a new timezone to your DateTime object, use the setTimezone method.


$date->setTimezone(new DateTimeZone('America/New_York'));
echo $date->format('Y-m-d H:i:s');
2020-09-05 16:36:01


Create a Date from a Timestamp

If you have a timestamp you need to convert to a useable date you can pass it into the setTimestamp method. Then you can format it.


$date = new DateTime();
echo $date->format('Y-m-d H:i:s');
2020-09-05 21:22:42


Comparing Dates

DateTime objects can be compared using if statements. In the example below we are creating two DateTime objects, one is my local time ($date) and the other is in New York ($date_new_york). When comparing the dates to see if one is greater we should find that New York time is greater than my local time.


$date = new DateTime();
$date_new_york = new DateTime('', new DateTimeZone('America/New_York'));

if ($date < $date_new_york) {
echo 'local time '. $date->format('Y-m-d H:i:s') .' is less than New York time';

local time 2020-09-05 21:51:22 is less than New York time


You can, of course, use any of the available PHP comparison operators to make DateTime comparisons.



You know now how to create, format and compare dates in PHP using the DateTime object. If you just need to create a date then the date() function might still be the cleanest option, however, for many other purposes, DateTime has much more powerful functionality.

date time format