How to use Excel DATE Function (Examples + Video)

Excel DATE Function Overview

Excel DATE Function

When to use Excel DATE Function

Excel DATE function can be used when you want to get the date value using the year, month and, day values as the input arguments. The input arguments can be entered manually, as cell reference that contains the dates, or as a result some formula.

What it Returns

It returns a serial number that represents a specific date in Excel. For example, if it returns 42370, it represents the date: 01 January 2016.


=DATE(year, month, day)

Input Arguments

  • year – the year to be used for the date.
  • month – the month to be used for the date.
  • day – the day to be used for the date.

Additional Notes (boring stuff.. but important to know)

  • The result displayed in the cell would depend on the formatting of that cell. For example:
    • If the cell is formatted as General, the result is displayed in the date format (remember dates are always stored as serial numbers but can be displayed in various formats).
    • To get the result as a serial number, change the cell’s formatting to Number.
  • It is recommended to use the four-digit year to avoid unwanted results. If the Year value used is less than 1900, Excel automatically adds 1900 to it. For example, if you use ten as the Year value, Excel makes it 1910.
  • The Month value can be less than 0 or greater than 12. If the Month value is greater than 12, then Excel automatically adds that excess month to the next year. Similarly, if the month value is less than 0, the DATE function would automatically go back that many numbers of months.
    • For example, DATE(2015,15,1) would return 1 March 2016. Similarly, DATE(2016,-2,1) would return October 1, 2015.
  • Day value could be positive or negative. If the day value is negative, Excel automatically deducts that many days from the first day of the specified month. If it is more than the number of days in that month, then those extra days are added to the next month value. (example below).

Excel DATE Function – Examples

Here are X example of using the Excel DATE function:

Example 1: Getting the Date Serial number using Year, Month, and Day values

You can get the serial number of a date when you specify the Year, Month, and Day values.

Excel DATE Function - Example 1

In the example above, the DATE function takes three arguments, 2016 as the year value, 3 as the month value, and 1 as the date value.

It returns 42430 when the cell is formatted as ‘General’, and returns 01-03-2016 when the cell is formatted as ‘Date’.

Note that Excel stores a date or time as a number.

The date format can vary based on your regional settings. For example, the date format in the US is DD-MM-YYYY, while in the UK it’s MM-DD-YYYY.

If you have the Year, Month, and Day values in cells in a worksheet, you can use the cell references as shown below:

Excel DATE Function - Example 1a

Example 2: Using Negative Values for Month or Days

You can use negative values for month and days. When you use a negative value for a month, let’s say -1, it goes back by 1 month return its date.

For example, if you use the formula =DATE(2017,-1,1), it’ll return the date November 1, 2016, as goes back by one month. Similarly, you can use any negative number in months.

Excel DATE Function - Example 2

The same logic is followed when you use a month value that is more than 12. In that case, it goes to the next year and returns as the date after the months in excess of 12.

For example, if you use the formula =DATE(2016,14,1), it’ll return the date February 1, 2017.

Excel DATE Function - Example 2a

Note: The date format shown in the examples above is based on my system’s settings (which is DD-MM-YYYY). It may vary based on your settings.

Similarly, you can also use negative day values or values that are more than 31, and accordingly, Excel DATE function would adjust the date.

Excel DATE Function – VIDEO

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