How to Compare Dates in SQL: A Quick and Efficient Guide

By Cristian G. Guasch • Updated: 06/28/23 • 16 min read

Efficiently comparing dates in SQL is a crucial skill, as databases often contain vast amounts of time-sensitive data. Knowing how to compare dates in SQL allows developers to manipulate and analyze this data effectively. Whether it’s retrieving information about past transactions, tracking employee records, or generating reports, getting familiar with date comparisons in SQL can help in optimizing queries and generating accurate results.

One noteworthy aspect when working with dates in SQL is that they can be represented in various formats, such as DATE, TIME, TIMESTAMP, or even custom-defined formats. Consequently, understanding the nuances of these formats is essential for performing comparisons correctly. Additionally, SQL offers a wide selection of built-in functions and operators, specifically designed for working with date data.

In this article, readers will learn the ins and outs of comparing dates in SQL, uncovering the most common techniques and functions to handle date information. By the end of this guide, users should possess a solid foundation for comparing dates in SQL and extracting pertinent data from databases with ease. So whether you’re a beginner aiming to learn the basics or an experienced developer looking to hone your skills, this article has got you covered.

Understanding Date and Time Data Types

When working with SQL databases, handling date and time data is a crucial component. To effectively compare dates in SQL, it’s essential to understand the various date and time data types. SQL offers multiple options for storing and manipulating date and time data, including DATE, TIME, DATETIME, TIMESTAMP, and YEAR. Each data type serves a specific purpose, providing different levels of granularity and storage requirements.

  • DATE: Stores the date in the format YYYY-MM-DD. It covers the range from ‘1000-01-01’ to ‘9999-12-31’.
  • TIME: Stores time in the format HH:MM:SS. It can store time values ranging from ‘-838:59:59’ to ‘838:59:59’.
  • DATETIME: Combines date and time, formatted as YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS. It’s useful when both date and time values are required. The range is from ‘1000-01-01 00:00:00’ to ‘9999-12-31 23:59:59’.
  • TIMESTAMP: Similar to DATETIME, but with a smaller range: from ‘1970-01-01 00:00:01’ UTC to ‘2038-01-19 03:14:07’ UTC. It’s often used for tracking changes in a record.
  • YEAR: Stores the year information only, either in 2-digit or 4-digit format.

To compare dates in SQL, the most common functions used are DATEDIFF, DATE_ADD, DATE_SUB, and NOW. These functions assist in comparing, adding, subtracting, and getting the current date and time, respectively. While comparing dates, it’s critical to consider time zones if data is captured from different geographical locations.

Here’s an example of using DATEDIFF function to determine the difference between two dates:

SELECT DATEDIFF('2022-12-31', '2022-01-01') AS 'DaysBetween';

This query will return the number of days between the two specified dates. Remember that when comparing dates in SQL, it’s essential to use the appropriate data type and function for the desired result.

In conclusion, understanding the various date and time data types and their functions is vital when working with SQL databases. Harnessing these tools effectively allows for complex queries and data analysis using sql compare dates strategies.

Basic SQL Date Functions

When working with SQL compare dates, it’s important to understand the basic SQL date functions that facilitate easy comparison, retrieval, and manipulation of date values. A few of the commonly used SQL date functions are:

  • CURRENT_DATE: Returns the current date.
  • CURRENT_TIMESTAMP: Retrieves the current date and time.
  • DATEADD: Adds a specified value to a date.
  • DATEDIFF: Calculates the difference between two dates.
  • DATEPART: Returns an integer value representing a specific part of a date.

Here’s a brief description of each of these functions, along with examples:

  1. CURRENT_DATE: This function retrieves the current date from the SQL database. Usage may vary slightly depending on the SQL platform being used. For example, SQL Server users will utilize GETDATE() or SYSDATETIME(), while MySQL and PostgreSQL users will use CURDATE() or CURRENT_DATE. Example: SELECT CURRENT_DATE;
  2. CURRENT_TIMESTAMP: Similar to CURRENT_DATE, this function returns the current date and time. SQL Server users will use GETDATE() or SYSDATETIME(), while MySQL or PostgreSQL users can opt for NOW() or CURRENT_TIMESTAMP. Example: SELECT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP;
  3. DATEADD: To add a specific value to a date, the DATEADD function comes in handy. It accepts three arguments: the date part that needs to be modified (like year, month, or day), the value to add, and the date to which the value should be added. Example: -- Adds 5 days to a date SELECT DATEADD(day, 5, '2021-07-01');
  4. DATEDIFF: Calculating the difference between two dates is made easy with the DATEDIFF function. It returns an integer that represents the specific date part’s (year, month, or day) difference between two dates. Example: SELECT DATEDIFF(day, '2021-07-01', '2021-07-10');
  5. DATEPART: The DATEPART function extracts a specific part of a date and returns its integer value. This could be the year, quarter, month, day, or even smaller timeframes like hour, minute, and second. Example: SELECT DATEPART(month, '2021-07-01');

In summary, learning to use these basic SQL date functions is essential for effective SQL compare dates operations. They make date comparisons, retrievals, and manipulations manageable and smooth, greatly increasing the efficiency of SQL date handling.

Using the BETWEEN Operator

When working with SQL databases, comparing dates is a crucial aspect. One powerful way to accomplish this is through the BETWEEN operator. This operator enables users to filter and retrieve records that fall within a specified date range. In this section, we’ll be discussing the usage and advantages of using the BETWEEN operator for SQL date comparisons.

To begin, it’s essential to note that with SQL, dates are usually stored in the DATE, TIME, or DATETIME columns. The BETWEEN operator allows users to extract records with date values that are between two specified dates. Here’s a simple example:

SELECT * FROM orders
WHERE order_date BETWEEN '2021-01-01' AND '2021-12-31';

In this query, the user is seeking all records in the orders table where the order_date falls between January 1st, 2021, and December 31st, 2021. The result will display all orders placed within this date range.

Let’s examine the benefits of using the BETWEEN operator when comparing dates in SQL:

  • Easy-to-read syntax: It provides a simple, understandable syntax for specifying date ranges. You don’t need advanced coding skills to use it.
  • Reduced complexity: It reduces code complexity by requiring only one clause to filter for a specific date range, without the need for multiple conditions.
  • Enhanced performance: Filtering records using the BETWEEN operator can lead to better database performance, as it reduces the number of comparisons performed.

In some cases, excluding the end dates from the range may be necessary. To achieve this, the WHERE clause can be modified with the >= and < operators, like so:

SELECT * FROM orders
WHERE order_date >= '2021-01-01' AND order_date < '2022-01-01';

This query will return all records in the orders table with an order_date from January 1st, 2021, up to, but not including, January 1st, 2022.

In summary, the BETWEEN operator is a powerful tool for SQL date comparisons that offers numerous advantages, including simplicity, reduced complexity, and enhanced performance. Recognizing when and how to use the BETWEEN operator, as well as alternative methods like the >= and < operators, is vital for effective SQL date comparisons.

Date Comparison with the DATEDIFF Function

When working with databases, comparing dates is a common task for developers and database administrators. One of the most popular methods for SQL compare dates is the DATEDIFF function. This function calculates the difference between two date values, making it easy to compare date records. In this section, we’ll discuss how to use the DATEDIFF function effectively.

The DATEDIFF function takes three arguments:

  • The first argument is the datepart which specifies the unit of measurement for the difference calculation, such as year, month, day, hour, minute, or second.
  • The second argument is the start date.
  • The third argument is the end date.

With these arguments, the DATEDIFF function can be used to compare dates in a variety of ways. Let’s look at some examples.

Example 1: Comparing dates to calculate the number of days between two dates:

SELECT DATEDIFF(day, '2021-01-01', '2021-12-31');

This query returns the number of days between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021. The result will be 364.

Example 2: Comparing dates to check if two records have the same day:

Suppose we have a table named ‘Orders’ with columns ‘OrderID’, ‘CustomerID’, ‘OrderDate’, and ‘ShippedDate’. We can use the DATEDIFF function to find out if the order and shipped dates are on the same day:

SELECT OrderID, CustomerID
FROM Orders
WHERE DATEDIFF(day, OrderDate, ShippedDate) = 0;

This query returns all records where the order and shipped dates have a zero-day difference.

Example 3: Comparing dates for elapsed time (in months) since a given date:

Using the DATEDIFF function, we can calculate the elapsed time in months from a specific date until the current date. In a table called ‘Employees’ with columns ‘EmployeeID’, ‘Name’, and ‘HireDate’, we can calculate the number of months since each employee’s hire date:

SELECT EmployeeID, Name, DATEDIFF(month, HireDate, GETDATE()) as MonthsSinceHire
FROM Employees;

This query returns the employee ID, name, and the number of months that have passed since each employee’s hire date.

In summary, the DATEDIFF function is an incredibly versatile tool for comparing dates in SQL. By mastering this function, you can efficiently handle a wide variety of date comparison requirements.


When working with dates in SQL, one might need to compare them in order to filter or sort data effectively. Two important functions that can assist in comparing dates are DATEADD and DATEPART.

DATEADD is a function that allows users to add or subtract a certain time unit, such as days, months, or years, from a specified date. This is useful when attempting to calculate a new date by adding or subtracting time units. The general syntax for DATEADD is as follows:

DATEADD(time_unit, interval, date)

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • To add 5 days to a given date, one would use: DATEADD(day, 5, '2022-01-01')
  • To subtract 3 months from a given date, one would use: DATEADD(month, -3, '2022-01-01')

The DATEPART function, on the other hand, is used to extract a specific part of a date, such as the day, month, or year. This proves to be useful when comparing specific parts of two dates. The general syntax for DATEPART is as follows:

DATEPART(time_unit, date)

Here are some examples of how to use DATEPART:

  • To extract the day value from a given date: DATEPART(day, '2022-01-01')
  • To extract the year value from a given date: DATEPART(year, '2022-01-01')

By combining these two functions, one can effectively compare dates in SQL. For instance, if there is a need to find the difference between two dates, the DATEDIFF function can be used. This function calculates the difference between two dates in the specified time unit. The general syntax for DATEDIFF is:

DATEDIFF(time_unit, start_date, end_date)

Consider the following scenario: A user wants to find the number of days between two dates in their SQL database. The following query would be used:

DATEDIFF(day, '2022-01-01', '2022-01-10')

In this instance, the DATEDIFF function would return 9, indicating that there are nine days between the two specified dates.

In summary, when one needs to compare dates in SQL, powerful functions like DATEADD, DATEPART, and DATEDIFF can be employed to make the comparisons effectively. These functions enable users to manipulate and extract specific parts of dates, providing an efficient way to analyze and filter data based on date values.

Taking Advantage of the CAST and CONVERT Functions

When working with dates in SQL, one may come across scenarios where comparing dates becomes crucial. In such cases, CAST and CONVERT functions can be the go-to tools for SQL developers. These functions facilitate transforming date data into desired data types and formats, hence simplifying the date comparison process.

CAST function is used primarily to change the data type of an expression. For instance, when SQL compare dates are represented as character types, it’s essential to convert them into a date format. The general syntax for the CAST function is as follows:

CAST(expression AS datatype)

To use the CAST function in SQL to compare dates:

SELECT * FROM table_name
CAST(column_name AS DATE) = 'YYYY-MM-DD';

On the other hand, the CONVERT function not only converts the data type of an expression but also allows changing the data display format. When using the CONVERT function, remember that:

  • It is specific to SQL Server and Sybase databases.
  • It’s more flexible compared to the CAST function.

The general syntax for the CONVERT function is as follows:

CONVERT(datatype, expression, [style])

To use the CONVERT function in SQL to compare dates:

SELECT * FROM table_name
CONVERT(DATE, column_name, style) = 'YYYY-MM-DD';

Besides the CAST and CONVERT functions, there are other techniques to compare dates in SQL:

  • Using date format functions: Certain databases have functions to extract specific date components. Some examples include:
    • MySQL: YEAR(), MONTH(), DAY()
    • PostgreSQL: EXTRACT(), DATE_PART()
    • SQL Server: YEAR(), MONTH(), DAY(), DATEPART()
  • Employing BETWEEN operator for date range comparisons:
SELECT * FROM table_name

In conclusion, mastering the use of CAST and CONVERT functions, along with other date manipulation techniques, significantly improves one’s ability to efficiently compare dates in SQL.

Common Date Comparison Pitfalls

When working with dates in SQL, it’s essential to be aware of common pitfalls that can lead to unexpected results or errors. This section will discuss some of these issues, providing insight into why they occur and how to avoid them, making your SQL compare dates tasks smoother and more accurate.

One significant pitfall when comparing dates in SQL is the variety of date formats. Different databases and applications store dates in different ways, which can lead to confusion and incorrect results. Some typical formats include:


To avoid issues related to varying formats, it’s important to consistently use the same format throughout your SQL queries or application. This can be achieved by using the built-in SQL date conversion functions such as CONVERT, CAST, or PARSE.

Another common issue when comparing dates is ignoring the time component. Date and time data in SQL often includes both date and time components, and comparing such data without taking time into account may lead to incorrect results. To solve this problem, you can:

  • Use SQL’s built-in functions like DATE or TRUNC to remove the time component and compare only the dates
  • Extract the time portion by using HOUR, MINUTE, and SECOND SQL functions

Incorrect data types also pose a challenge during date comparisons in SQL. When date data is stored in the wrong data type, such as a string or integer, it can cause significant complications during comparisons. Ensure that your columns are using the correct date data type (DATE, DATETIME, TIMESTAMP, etc.) to prevent these kinds of issues.

Be aware that leap years can cause issues when comparing dates spanning multiple years. SQL may not account for the extra day in a leap year, causing inaccurate results when comparing dates across leap years and non-leap years. To address this, always consider leap years when comparing years, or utilize SQL functions like DATEDIFF that account for leap years.

Finally, consider time zone differences when comparing dates, especially for distributed systems. Dates and times might have been stored with a specific time zone or as UTC, and failing to account for this could lead to incorrect comparisons. You can rectify this by using SQL functions like AT TIME ZONE or by converting all dates to a standard time zone before comparison.

In summary, keep these common pitfalls in mind when working with SQL date comparisons:

  • Variety of date formats
  • Ignoring the time component
  • Incorrect data types
  • Leap years
  • Time zone differences

Being aware of these issues and using appropriate SQL functions will help ensure more accurate and reliable date comparisons.

Comparing Dates Across Multiple SQL Databases

When working with databases, one common task is comparing dates. Comparing dates can vary across different SQL databases, due to their different ways of handling dates and time formats. This section will highlight the various techniques used in some of the popular SQL databases to compare dates.

SQL Server

In SQL Server, comparing dates is relatively straightforward. The database has built-in functions to manipulate dates and perform comparisons. DATEDIFF is a widely used function which takes in three arguments – the date part, start date, and end date – and returns the difference as an integer. Here’s a sample query to compare two dates:

SELECT DATEDIFF(day, '2021-01-01', '2021-01-31') AS DateDifference;


MySQL also has its own set of date comparison functions such as DATEDIFF and TIMEDIFF. Similar to SQL Server’s DATEDIFF, MySQL’s DATEDIFF function calculates the difference between two dates in days:

SELECT DATEDIFF('2021-01-31', '2021-01-01') AS DateDifference;


Oracle, on the other hand, doesn’t provide a specific function for date comparison. However, Oracle makes it simple to compare dates by allowing arithmetic operations with dates directly. To get the difference, subtract the smaller date from the larger one:

SELECT (TO_DATE('2021-01-31', 'YYYY-MM-DD') - TO_DATE('2021-01-01', 'YYYY-MM-DD')) AS DateDifference


PostgreSQL provides the AGE function to calculate the interval between two dates. To compare dates, use the following query:

SELECT AGE(TIMESTAMP '2021-01-31', TIMESTAMP '2021-01-01');

In summary, while SQL compare dates methods may differ across databases, each database has specific functions or features to calculate the difference between dates. Using these techniques will make it easier to compare dates in multiple SQL databases:

  • SQL Server: DATEDIFF
  • Oracle: Direct date arithmetic
  • PostgreSQL: AGE

Wrapping Up Your Date Comparison Journey

Throughout this article, we’ve explored the ins and outs of comparing dates in SQL. Mastering date comparisons in SQL can greatly enhance your ability to analyze and manipulate data. Let’s quickly recap the important takeaways from our journey:

  • SQL compare dates has various functions and methods to facilitate the comparison process
  • With DATE, TIMESTAMP, and DATETIME data types, SQL makes it possible to compare dates with accuracy and precision
  • Functions such as DATEDIFF, DATEADD, and YEAR enable us to perform arithmetic operations and calculate the difference between two dates in SQL
  • The BETWEEN operator and comparison operators such as <, >, <=, >=, =, and != make it possible to quickly filter out results in our date comparisons

Keep these points in mind as you continue to work with dates in SQL. This newfound knowledge will empower you to manage and utilize date data effectively, making your data analysis and database management tasks more efficient and seamless.

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