How Excel Handles Times and Dates

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The way Excel handles dates is different from the way a human would see it. Once you understand dates you will better understand how to make them work for you.

What is a valid Excel date?

Excel sees dates as a number. Where you would see

  • 1st Jan 2009,
  • Excel sees 39 814 i.e. 39 814 days after the 1 January 1900.

Below what you see and what Excel actually sees.


In a single spreadsheet you may see the following ‘dates’ in cells. These might have been typed in, imported from another system or sent to you from your colleague in another country:

  • 18 June 1973
  • 18/06/1973
  • 1973/06/18
  • 06/18/1973

How do we check if, and which one/s, Excel recognises as dates?

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