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PHP Strtotime: Convert English Textual Datetime to TimeStamp

PHP supports date functions to handle date & time to implement and provide a method to convert human-readable dates to Unix Timestamp. One of those methods is strtotime(). Let’s see that in detail.

PHP strtotime()

The strtotime() is a built-in PHP String function used to convert an English textual date-time description to a UNIX timestamp. The strtotime() function accepts a string parameter in English, which represents the description of date-time.

 E.g., “now” refers to the current date in the English date-time description.


strtotime(time, now);


The time parameter specifies a date/time string.

The now parameter specifies the timestamp used to calculate the returned value. It is an optional parameter.

Since the time/date is not static, therefore the output will vary.


See the following code.


echo strtotime("now"), "\n";
echo strtotime("10 September 1993"), "\n";
echo strtotime("+1 day"), "\n";
echo strtotime("+2 week"), "\n";
echo strtotime("+3 week 2 days 4 hours 11 seconds"), "\n";
echo strtotime("next Thursday"), "\n";
echo strtotime("last Sunday"), "\n";

See the following output.

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Let’s get the current date.


echo date("Y-m-d", strtotime("now"));

See the following output.

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Let’s get the date from this year’s ending to the future one year.


echo date("d-m-Y", strtotime("2019-12-25 +1 year"));

See the following output.

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Okay, now let’s use with str_replace() function.


$timestamp = strtotime(str_replace('/', '-', '19/02/2019'));
echo $timestamp;

See the output.

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PHP strtotime timezone

Okay, let’s get the timestamp of the America/Los_Angeles timezone.


$dateStr = '2019-07-04';
$timezone = 'America/Los_Angeles';

$date = new DateTime($dateStr, new DateTimeZone($timezone));
$timestamp = $date->format('U');
echo $timestamp;

See the output.

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Using strtotime to convert English text to a date

See the following code in which we are using the strtotime function to convert English text to data.


$textDate = "19th february 2004";

echo strtotime($textDate), "\n";

echo date("Y-m-d", strtotime($textDate))."\n";

See the following output.

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So, we have converted the text to integer and the actual date.

Let’s print the next Sunday date from today’s date. Your output may be different as your current date will be different.


echo strtotime("next sunday"), "\n";  

echo date("Y-m-d", strtotime("next sunday"))."\n"; 

See the output.

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Strtotime() doesn’t work with dd/mm/YYYY format

When you are working on the project, you often across a date format that looks like dd//mm/YYYY.

Suppose you have a date in dd/mm/YYYY format; how can you convert it to YYYY-mm-dd using the strtotime() function? But when you apply the strtotime() function to that format, then it won’t work. It works only with mm/dd/YYYY format.

Dates in the mm/dd/YYY or dd-mm-YYYY formats are illustrated by looking at the separator between the different components. If the separator is a slash (/), then the American mm/dd/YYYY is assumed. In contrast, if the separator is a dash (-) or a dot (.), then the European dd-mm-YYYY format is assumed.

See the following code.

// app.php

$date = '06/03/2021';
$date = str_replace('/', '-', $date);
echo date('Y-m-d', strtotime($date));



Convert strtotime to date time in PHP



The strtotime() function parses the English textual datetime into the Unix timestamp (the number of seconds since January 1, 1970, 00:00:00 GMT).

If the year is specified in the two-digit format, values between 0-69 are mapped to 2000-2069 and values between 70-100 are mapped to 1970-2000.

You need to careful of dates in the m/d/y or d-m-y formats; if the separator is the slash (/), then an American m/d/y is assumed.

If a separator is a dash (-) or a dot (.), then the European d-m-y format is expected. If we want to avoid potential errors, you should YYYY-MM-DD dates or date_create_from_format() when possible.

When using the “next month”, “last month”, “+1 month”,  “-1 month” or any combination of the +/-X months. It will give the non-intuitive results on Jan 30th and 31st.

Finally, the PHP strtotime() function example tutorial is over.

1 Comment
  1. Bob says

    Tell us what it returns if the date is INVALID!!!!

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