How to Get Yesterday’s Date in MySQL: Your Quick and Easy Guide

By Cristian G. Guasch • Updated: 09/22/23 • 8 min read

Getting yesterday’s date in MySQL isn’t as complex as you might think. I’ll unravel the mystery for you, making it easier to pull that particular piece of data when you need it most.

MySQL, like many database systems, has a plethora of built-in functions. These functions simplify tasks that would otherwise be tedious and time-consuming. Among these is the DATE_SUB function – your go-to tool for getting yesterday’s date.

In a nutshell, you use this function to subtract a certain interval from a specific date. Sounds interesting? Well, let’s dive deeper into how we can put this function into practical use.

Understanding MySQL Date Functions

MySQL, a powerful open-source database management system, dishes out an impressive array of date functions. These tools are pivotal in fetching, evaluating, and manipulating data based on dates. Let’s dive deeper into this fascinating world.

A function that often takes center stage is CURDATE(). This handy tool will deliver the current date to you. However, what if you’re looking for yesterday’s date? That’s where DATE_SUB() comes in. With this function at your disposal, you can easily subtract a certain time period from a date. For example:


This command tells MySQL to subtract one day from today’s date – effectively giving us yesterday’s date! It’s as simple as it sounds.

While these two functions may be pretty straightforward and easy to use, it doesn’t mean they’re immune to common slip-ups by users. One such mistake I’ve seen often is confusing the order of arguments in the DATE_SUB() function. Remember: The syntax should always be DATE_SUB(date, INTERVAL value unit). Flipping the ‘date’ and ‘interval’ values around will lead you down a road of errors.

Another common pitfall involves forgetting about timezone differences when using CURDATE(). You might think that this function displays the local time but it actually shows server time – which might not be what you expected!

Understanding MySQL date functions isn’t just about knowing how they work; it’s also about being aware of potential pitfalls and learning how to avoid them! With these insights under your belt, you’re well on your way towards mastering MySQL date handling.

Utilizing CURDATE() and INTERVAL to Retrieve Yesterday’s Date

In the world of MySQL, there’s a handy little function known as CURDATE(). It’s become my go-to when I need to pull the current date. But what if you’re looking for yesterday’s date? That’s where INTERVAL steps in to save the day.

The function CURDATE() essentially returns the current date. Pretty straightforward, right? Here’s how it works:


Running this query will give you today’s date. But we’re after yesterday’s date, aren’t we? This is where INTERVAL makes its grand entrance. By using INTERVAL, you can manipulate dates with ease in MySQL.

To get yesterday’s date, all you need to do is subtract one day from the current date. Simply put, just subtract an ‘INTERVAL 1 DAY’ from CURDATE(). Here it is in action:


Voila! You’ve got yesterday’s date!

Now, while this seems simple enough, I’ve seen folks make some common mistakes that trip them up. One such error is misunderstanding how intervals work in MySQL. For instance, using ‘-1 DAY’ instead of ‘INTERVAL 1 DAY’. Remember that ‘DAY’ isn’t recognized by MySQL as a valid interval unit unless it comes after ‘INTERVAL’.

Another mistake is not utilizing parentheses correctly or forgetting them altogether when combining these functions with others. Always remember: good syntax equals happy coding!

There are also variations on how to retrieve yesterday’s date depending on your specific needs or preferences:

  • Using DATE_SUB():
  • Using DATE_ADD():

All these methods do the same thing – they give you yesterday’s date. It’s all about what feels most comfortable for you. Happy querying!

Examples of Getting Previous Day’s Date in MySQL

Let’s dive right into an example. If you’re looking to snag yesterday’s date with MySQL, you’ll find the DATE_SUB function particularly useful. This built-in feature can be utilized thus:


This snippet quite simply subtracts one day from the current date, effectively giving you yesterday’s date.

But wait, there’s more! MySQL also provides another handy function called SUBDATE. Here’s how you can leverage it to get yesterday’s date:


In the above query, we’ve used CURDATE() to fetch today’s date and subtracted ‘1’ using the SUBDATE function. This again will return the previous day’s date in a jiffy!

Now let me point out a common pitfall that I’ve seen folks stumble into when working with these functions. It might seem tempting to simply use something like this:


While this approach might give you a result, it’ll not yield what you’re expecting. Instead of getting yesterday’s date as desired, this operation would actually subtract ‘1’ from the current day and leave other parts (month & year) untouched. So if today is April 20th, instead of returning April 19th it would end up displaying “April 01”.

So remember: while coding variations can spice things up and make programming an exciting endeavor indeed, sticking to tried-and-true methods (like using SUBDATE or DATE_SUB) often serves best when dealing with dates in MySQL.

Stepping back for a moment from specific examples – let me tell ya something – no matter how experienced a coder you are, mistakes happen all too easily when dealing with dates and time. From forgetting to account for leap years to navigating different time zones, there’s a plethora of potential pitfalls that could trip you up. So it’s always best to stay on top of industry best practices and keep abreast with function updates in MySQL.

Happy coding!

Common Errors When Fetching Yesterday’s Date in MySQL

We’ve all been there. We’re sitting at our computers, typing away, trying to fetch yesterday’s date in MySQL, and we hit a roadblock. It’s not as straightforward as it seems, and sometimes we make mistakes that can throw off our results. Let me walk you through some of the most common errors I’ve seen when fetching yesterday’s date in MySQL.

One common mistake is using the wrong function to get the current date. In MySQL, if you want to get today’s date, you use CURDATE(). But sometimes folks mistakenly use NOW(), which gives both the current date and time. So when they subtract one day from NOW(), they don’t end up with yesterday’s date; they end up with a timestamp 24 hours ago instead.


Another frequent error is forgetting that dates are stored as strings in MySQL by default. When we attempt operations like subtraction on these string-formatted dates without converting them into proper datetime format first, we’ll run into trouble for sure.

SELECT '2022-04-01' - INTERVAL 1 DAY; -- Returns NULL because '2022-04-01' is a string 

Then there’s the timezone issue which can be quite tricky! If your server’s timezone setting doesn’t match your local timezone or that of your users’, fetching any relative dates like “yesterday” could give incorrect results.

Let’s not forget about leap years too! On March 1st of non-leap years, if we simply subtract one from the day part of the date thinking it’ll give us Feb 28th… well let me tell you… it won’t!

SELECT DATE('2023-03-01') - INTERVAL 1 DAY; -- Returns '2023-02-28'
SELECT DATE('2023-03-01') - INTERVAL '1 0:0:0' DAY_SECOND; -- Returns NULL

Lastly, MySQL also has some functions that look like they should return yesterday’s date but don’t. DATE_SUB() and SUBDATE(), for example, require two arguments: the date to subtract from and the interval to subtract. If we forget that second argument or use it incorrectly, we’ll end up with a big fat error!

SELECT DATE_SUB(CURDATE()); -- Throws an error because it's missing an interval 

So there you have it! A few pitfalls to watch out for when trying to fetch yesterday’s date in MySQL. It might seem daunting at first, but once you’re aware of these common missteps, you’ll be better equipped to avoid them in your coding journey.

Conclusion: Simplifying Date Retrieval in MySQL

That’s a wrap on the ins and outs of obtaining yesterday’s date in MySQL. Armed with this knowledge, you’re now able to optimize your database operations more effectively. Let’s quickly revisit some key points we’ve covered:

  • The CURDATE() function is a go-to tool when dealing with dates.
  • To get yesterday’s date, simply subtract one day from the current date using the INTERVAL keyword.
  • Here’s how it looks in code:

It should be noted that getting dates wrong can be a common pitfall for many developers. Therefore, always double-check your calculations and ensure you completely understand what each function does.

While working with MySQL or any other database management system, understanding how to manipulate and retrieve data efficiently is crucial. Grasping these tools increases not only your productivity but also the performance of your applications.

So there we have it! You’ve mastered another essential aspect of MySQL—date retrieval. With practice and careful application of these techniques, I’m confident you’ll continue growing as a valuable asset within the web development community. Keep exploring, keep learning, never stop improving!

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