Python – Check if string has date, any format


How do I check if a string can be parsed to a date?

  • Jan 19, 1990
  • January 19, 1990
  • Jan 19,1990
  • 01/19/1990
  • 01/19/90
  • 1990
  • Jan 1990
  • January1990

These are all valid dates. If there's any concern regarding the lack of space in between stuff in item #3 and the last item above, that can be easily remedied via automatically inserting a space in between letters/characters and numbers, if so needed.

But first, the basics:

I tried putting it in an if statement:

if datetime.strptime(item, '%Y') or datetime.strptime(item, '%b %d %y') or datetime.strptime(item, '%b %d %Y')  or datetime.strptime(item, '%B %d %y') or datetime.strptime(item, '%B %d %Y'):

But that's in a try-except block, and keeps returning something like this:

16343 time data 'JUNE1890' does not match format '%Y'

Unless, it met the first condition in the if statement.

To clarify, I don't actually need the value of the date – I just want to know if it is. Ideally, it would've been something like this:

if item is date:
    print date
    print "Not a date"

Is there any way to do this?

Best Solution

The parse function in dateutils.parser is capable of parsing many date string formats to a datetime object.

If you simply want to know whether a particular string could represent or contain a valid date, you could try the following simple function:

from dateutil.parser import parse

def is_date(string, fuzzy=False):
    Return whether the string can be interpreted as a date.

    :param string: str, string to check for date
    :param fuzzy: bool, ignore unknown tokens in string if True
        parse(string, fuzzy=fuzzy)
        return True

    except ValueError:
        return False

Then you have:

>>> is_date("1990-12-1")
>>> is_date("2005/3")
>>> is_date("Jan 19, 1990")
>>> is_date("today is 2019-03-27")
>>> is_date("today is 2019-03-27", fuzzy=True)
>>> is_date("Monday at 12:01am")
>>> is_date("xyz_not_a_date")
>>> is_date("yesterday")

Custom parsing

parse might recognise some strings as dates which you don't want to treat as dates. For example:

  • Parsing "12" and "1999" will return a datetime object representing the current date with the day and year substituted for the number in the string

  • "23, 4" and "23 4" will be parsed as datetime.datetime(2023, 4, 16, 0, 0).

  • "Friday" will return the date of the nearest Friday in the future.
  • Similarly "August" corresponds to the current date with the month changed to August.

Also parse is not locale aware, so does not recognise months or days of the week in languages other than English.

Both of these issues can be addressed to some extent by using a custom parserinfo class, which defines how month and day names are recognised:

from dateutil.parser import parserinfo

class CustomParserInfo(parserinfo):

    # three months in Spanish for illustration
    MONTHS = [("Enero", "Enero"), ("Feb", "Febrero"), ("Marzo", "Marzo")]

An instance of this class can then be used with parse:

>>> parse("Enero 1990")
# ValueError: Unknown string format
>>> parse("Enero 1990", parserinfo=CustomParserInfo())
datetime.datetime(1990, 1, 27, 0, 0)