How to Get the Current Date and Time in MySQL: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

By Cristian G. Guasch • Updated: 09/22/23 • 7 min read

If you’re working with MySQL, it’s critical to know how to retrieve the current date and time. Not only can this be useful for managing data entries, but it’s also integral in tracking user activity, understanding seasonal trends, and much more. So, let me guide you through how to get the current date and time in MySQL.

MySQL has built-in functions that make retrieving the current date and time straightforward. Whether you need just the date, just the time, or both together – MySQL has got you covered. It’s all about knowing which function to use and when.

In this article, I’ll walk you through using these functions step-by-step. By the end of it, getting the current date and time in MySQL will feel like second nature for you. Let’s dive right into it!

Understanding MySQL Date and Time Data Types

When working with databases, it’s essential to grasp how different data types function. In MySQL, the date and time data types hold a special place. Let me dive into their specifics.

Primarily, there are four main types you’ll come across: DATE, TIME, DATETIME, and TIMESTAMP. These are quite straightforward:

  • DATE: It stores the date in the format of ‘YYYY-MM-DD’.
  • TIME: This type preserves time in ‘HH:MM:SS’ format.
  • DATETIME: As its name implies, this one keeps both date and time (format: ‘YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS’).
  • TIMESTAMP: It’s similar to DATETIME but also takes timezone into account.

Here is an example of how you would use these in your code:

    event_date DATE,
    event_time TIME,
    start_datetime DATETIME,
    end_timestamp TIMESTAMP

But don’t forget about YEAR and TIMESTAMP WITH TIME ZONE as well! The former only stores the year part of a date (useful for birth years or anniversaries), while the latter captures timestamp data inclusive of timezone information.

You might ask “Why so many variations?” Well, each has its own purpose depending on your needs. For instance, if you’re dealing with worldwide users interacting at different times due to various time zones – TIMESTAMP WITH TIME ZONE comes handy!

Common pitfalls include confusing between DATETIME and TIMESTAMP – remember that TIMESTAMP considers timezone while DATETIME doesn’t. Or incorrectly using DATE for storing datetime values leading to loss of important time details.

Getting familiar with these MySQL date/time data types will make your database interactions smoother – whether it’s storing user activity logs or scheduling future events!

Retrieving the Current Date in MySQL

Diving straight into the world of MySQL, it’s important to know how to retrieve the current date. This task is quite straightforward and can be accomplished using a built-in function known as CURDATE(). Just like this:


Running this command will return the current date in ‘YYYY-MM-DD’ format. Pretty simple, right?

But wait! There’s more to it than meets the eye. For example, if you’re interested in displaying only the year or month from the current date, MySQL provides two functions: YEAR() and MONTH(). Here’s how we can use them:


This command will return both the current year and month.

I’d like to point out that while these commands are generally foolproof, there’s one common mistake I see all too often. Some folks forget that SQL commands are case-insensitive. So if you’ve been typing ‘curdate()’ instead of ‘CURDATE()’, don’t worry – both work just fine.

However, let’s say you want more detailed information about your date – like day of week or time included with your date. Well, then you’ll need a slightly different approach with other functions like DAYOFWEEK() or NOW(). We’ll delve deeper into those in upcoming sections. Until then, keep exploring and experimenting – that’s how we really learn!

Fetching the Current Time in MySQL

My journey into the world of databases has often brought me to a common yet crucial aspect – time. In fact, I frequently find myself needing to fetch the current date and time while working with MySQL. And trust me, it’s not as complex as you might think!

The CURTIME() function is your friend here. It’s a built-in function in MySQL that can be used to get the current time. Here’s how simple it is:


Running this query will give you the current time in ‘HH:MM:SS’ format. But wait, there’s more! If you need the time in ‘HHMMSS’ format instead, all you have to do is add an argument inside CURTIME(). Like so:


It’s quite handy, isn’t it? Now let me share a common mistake that many beginners make – confusing CURTIME() with CURRENT_TIME. These are NOT interchangeable.

  • The CURRENT_TIME function returns both date and time.
  • On the other hand, CURTIME() only provides the current time.

Here is what using CURRENT_TIME looks like:


So next time you’re sifting through your database and need a quick glance at your watch – remember these few lines of code could save your day!

Combining Date and Time Functions in MySQL

We’ve talked a lot about date and time functions individually, but what happens when you combine them? Magic, that’s what! Let’s dive into the wonderful world of combining date and time functions in MySQL.

First things first, there are plenty of reasons why you’d want to use combined date and time functions. Perhaps you’re tracking user activity on your website or monitoring real-time data changes. Whatever your reason may be, MySQL has a function called CONCAT which is perfect for this job. This function combines two or more strings into one. If we’re dealing with dates and times, it could look something like this:


In the above example, CURDATE() returns the current date while CURTIME() gives us the current time. By using CONCAT, we’re merging these two pieces together to get a complete timestamp.

But wait – I hear you saying “I want my date and time formatted differently!”. Well, don’t worry because I’ve got just the thing for you: the DATE_FORMAT function! Here’s how it works:

SELECT DATE_FORMAT(NOW(), '%Y-%m-%d %H:%i:%s');

With this piece of code, NOW() gives us both the date and time (just like our previous example), but then we apply DATE_FORMAT to change its appearance according to our needs.

However, let me caution against one common mistake – forgetting that MySQL uses 24-hour format by default for time values. If you need 12-hour format instead (complete with AM/PM), remember to include %r in your format string within the DATE_FORMAT function like so:

SELECT DATE_FORMAT(NOW(), '%Y-%m-%d %r');

Keep in mind, while combining these functions can be incredibly handy for certain tasks, it may add additional complexity to your queries. So, use them judiciously and always double-check your results!

Conclusion: Simplifying Date and Time Retrieval in MySQL

I’ve now guided you through the process of retrieving the current date and time using MySQL. It’s a straightforward task once you get to grips with it, but there are some key points that I need to reiterate.

Firstly, always remember that MySQL uses the CURDATE() and CURTIME() functions to retrieve the current date and time respectively. These functions are simple yet powerful tools in your SQL arsenal. Here’s how you’d use them:


Secondly, don’t forget about the NOW() function if you want both date and time together:


It’s important not to mix these up or overlook their distinct functionality.

In terms of common mistakes – one area where people often trip up is timezone management. Bear in mind that MySQL retrieves the date and time based on the server’s timezone by default. So, ensure your server is configured correctly according to your requirements.

Lastly, while this guide has focused on retrieving data, manipulating dates and times in MySQL can be just as simple with functions like DATE_ADD(), DATE_SUB(), etc.

Mastering these concepts will save you valuable development time further down the line, so it’s worth investing effort here early on. Good luck as you continue exploring MySQL!

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