Code Disciples

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Wed 10 June 2020

Working with date and time in Python

Posted by Abhishek Pednekar in Python   

In this post, you will learn how to effectively use Python's built-in datetime library. Working with dates and time is a fundamental concept with any programming language. Python's datetime library makes this simple by exposing a wide range of methods and attributes.

To keep the examples succinct, the import datetime statement will be excluded in all but the first code snippet. This post covers a more widely used subset of the attributes and methods provided by the datetime library. For the complete list, refer to the official documentation.

Aware vs. Naive

Python's date and time objects can be classified as aware or naive depending on whether they include time zone information or not.

An aware object contains details like the time zone and daylight saving time information whereas a naive object does not. In one of the subsequent sections, you will learn how to convert a naive object to an aware object.

date objects

A date object in Python represents a date in the (year, month, day) format.

>>> import datetime

>>> d =, 6, 10)

>>> d, 6, 10)

Note that the month part of the date object should not be prefixed with 0. If the month in the example is specified as 06 instead of 6, you will receive an invalid token error.

To access the year, the month or the day from a date object, you can use the year, month, day attributes respectively.

>>> d.year

>>> d.month


Another common use case of any datetime library is to access the current local date. You can do this with the today() method.

>>>, 6, 10)

To get the day of the week, you can use either the weekday() or the isoweekday() methods.

  • weekday() - Monday 0; Sunday 6
  • isoweekday() - Monday 1; Sunday 7
>>> dt =
>>> dt.weekday()
>>> dt.isoweekday()

time objects

To work with time, the datetime library provides a time object which represents time in the (hours, minutes, seconds, microseconds) format.

>>> t = datetime.time(10, 30, 27, 100000)

>>> t
datetime.time(10, 30, 27, 100000)

To access specific time parameters, you can use the hour, minute, second and microsecond attributes.

>>> t.hour

>>> t.minute

>>> t.second

>>> t.microsecond

timedelta objects

A timedelta object represents the difference between two dates or times. It takes the following arguments - days, seconds, microseconds, milliseconds, minutes, hours, weeks.

timedelta arithematic with date objects.

Adding or subtracting two date objects will result in a timedelta date +/- date2 = timedelta.

# Subtracting two dates

>>> date1 =, 6, 10)
>>> date2 =, 6, 11)

>>> diff = date2 - date1
>>> diff

To get the total seconds in a timedelta, you can use the total_seconds() method.

>>> diff.total_seconds()

Adding or subtracting a timedelta from a date object will result in another date date1 +/- timedelta = date2

# Today's date + 5

>>> tday =
>>> tdelta = datetime.timedelta(days=5)

>>> tday + tdelta, 6, 15)

datetime objects

A datetime object is essentially a combination of the date and time objects. It takes all the arguments of the date and time objects combined. In addition to this, you can also pull the entire date and the time parts separately using the date() and time() methods.

>>> dt = datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 9, 30, 0, 000000)
>>> dt
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 9, 30)

>>>, 6, 10)

>>> dt.time()
datetime.time(9, 30)


>>> dt.month

>>> dt.hour

>>> dt.microsecond

The datetime object can also be used with a timedelta object.

>>> tdelta = datetime.timedelta(days=10)
>>> dt + tdelta
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 20, 9, 30)

>>> tdelta = datetime.timedelta(hours=12)
>>> dt + tdelta
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 21, 30)

Alternative constructors for the datetime object

The method returns the local date and time without any time zone information.

>>> dt_today =
>>> dt_today
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 13, 3, 40, 691966)

The method returns the local date and time. It, however, accepts an optional time zone (tz) argument. tz has a default value of None. Time zones will be the focus of the next section.

>>> dt_now =
>>> dt_now
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 13, 3, 40, 691966)


The datetime.utcnow() method returns UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) without any time zone information.

>>> dt_utc_now = datetime.datetime.utcnow()
>>> dt_utc_now
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 7, 40, 37, 488672)

Time zones

Time zones are a critical aspect of working with dates and times. Fortunately, the pytz module simplifies this. Note that pytz is the recommended module in Python's official documentation for working with time zones. pytz is not a part of the Python standard library. To install pytz, you will need to run pip install pytz.

The documentation for pytz recommends that you work with UTC and convert to a local time only when generating a time output that will be read by humans.

To create a time zone aware datetime object, you can simply pass the tzinfo=pytz.utc argument to it.

>>> import pytz

>>> dt_tz = datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 9, 30, 0, 000000, tzinfo=pytz.UTC)
>>> dt_tz
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 9, 30, tzinfo=<UTC>)

In the previous section, you saw that the method accepts an optional time zone. You can pass the tz=pytz.UTC argument to the method to generate the current UTC.

>>> dt_now_utc =
>>> dt_now_utc
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 8, 10, 26, 309377, tzinfo=<UTC>)

Although the datetime.utcnow() method generates the UTC, it is not time zone aware. To make it time zone aware, you can chain .replace(tzinfo=pytz.UTC) to it.

>>> dt_utc_now = datetime.datetime.utcnow().replace(tzinfo=pytz.UTC)
>>> dt_utc_now
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 8, 13, 21, 597852, tzinfo=<UTC>)

Time zone conversions

Thus far, all the aware datetime objects have been in UTC. However, UTC can be converted to other time zones which is what you will be doing in most cases. To view all the time zones provided by pytz or to determine your current time zone, you can loop over the all_time zones attribute.

>>> for _ in pytz.all_timezones:


The conversion methods will differ depending on whether you are working with a naive or an aware datetime object.

Convert aware datetime objects

To convert an aware datetime object to any time zone, you will use the astimezone() method and pass the required time zone information to it. Note that astimezone() cannot be used with naive objects. In the next section, you will see how naive objects can be converted to a specific time zone.

Below example converts UTC to first, the Indian Standard Time (IST) followed by the US Central time (CST/CDT). For the latter, note that the current daylight saving time is returned.

# Create the aware datetime object

>>> dt_utc =
>>> dt_utc
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 10, 0, 32, 42287, tzinfo=<UTC>)

# Convert UTC to IST

>>> dt_ist = dt_utc.astimezone(pytz.timezone("Asia/Calcutta"))
>>> dt_ist
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 15, 30, 32, 42287, tzinfo=<DstTzInfo 'Asia/Calcutta' IST+5:30:00 STD>)

# Convert UTC to CST/CDT

>>> dt_cdt = dt_utc.astimezone(pytz.timezone("US/Central"))
>>> dt_cdt
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 5, 0, 32, 42287, tzinfo=<DstTzInfo 'US/Central' CDT-1 day, 19:00:00 DST>)

Convert naive datetime objects

To convert a naive object to a specific time zone is a two-step process -

  1. Convert the naive object to an aware datetime object using the localize() method
  2. Convert the aware object to the preferred time zone using astimezone()
# Create the naive object

>>> dt_now =
>>> dt_now
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 16, 3, 4, 110521)

# Convert the naive object to aware for the local time zone (IST)

>>> tz_ist = pytz.timezone("Asia/Calcutta")
>>> dt_now = tz_ist.localize(dt_now)
>>> dt_now
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 16, 3, 4, 110521, tzinfo=<DstTzInfo 'Asia/Calcutta' IST+5:30:00 STD>)

# Convert IST to CDT

>>> dt_cdt = dt_now.astimezone(pytz.timezone("US/Central"))
>>> dt_cdt
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 5, 33, 4, 110521, tzinfo=<DstTzInfo 'US/Central' CDT-1 day, 19:00:00 DST>)

The above example first creates a naive object called dt_now which returns the local time. Next, dt_now is converted to an aware object for the same time zone (IST in this case) using the localize() method. Note that the result of this conversion is being saved in dt_now itself. Finally, the datetime object is being converted from IST to CDT using the astimezone() method.

datetime formatting

ISO format

The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) date format is a globally accepted standard to represent a date. This was introduced to standardize the date format and to eliminate any ambiguity. For instance, North Americans write the month before the day whereas, in Europe and Asia, the month is usually written after the day. The date separators also vary between a hyphen (-) and a forward slash (/).

Both naive and aware datetime objects can be converted to the ISO format using the isoformat() method.

# Naive to ISO

>>> dt_now =
>>> dt_now.isoformat()

# Aware to ISO

>>> dt_now ="Asia/Calcutta"))
>>> dt_now.isoformat()


The strftime() method converts the datetime object to a string. Furthermore, it accepts format codes as parameters to represent the datetime in the desired format. The complete list of format codes are available in the official documentation.

Another great tool to generate the format string for strftime is You can simply enter the required date and time and the format string will be auto generated.

The format codes can be applied to both naive and aware objects.

# Formatting naive objects

>>> dt_now =
>>> dt_now.strftime("%B, %Y")
'June, 2020'

# Formatting aware objects

>>> dt_now ="Asia/Calcutta"))
>>> dt_now.strftime("%d-%B-%Y - %I:%M:%S %p")
'10-June-2020 - 04:35:54 PM'


The strptime() method converts a string to a datetime object. This method also accepts format codes. The codes should match the string being converted.

>>> dt_str = "03/30/2020"
>>> dt = datetime.datetime.strptime(dt_str, "%m/%d/%Y")
>>> dt
datetime.datetime(2020, 3, 30, 0, 0)

>>> dt_str = "June 10, 2020"
>>> dt = datetime.datetime.strptime(dt_str, "%B %d, %Y")
>>> dt
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 0, 0)

>>> dt_str = "10-June-2020 - 04:35:54 PM"
>>> dt = datetime.datetime.strptime(dt_str, "%d-%B-%Y - %I:%M:%S %p")
>>> dt
datetime.datetime(2020, 6, 10, 16, 35, 54)


Python's datetime library makes it easy to work with dates and times. When used in conjunction with the third-party pytz module, it enables straightforward conversions between time zones.

You should now be familiar with naive and aware objects, working with deltas and converting between time zones.