Correct Date Format by Country (UK vs. US vs. Europe)

Dates might seem like simple things only written in one format, but this is not the case. Funnily enough, there are a few different formats out there that exist based on where you are in the world. This article will look into the different formats available for dates.

What Is The Correct Way To Write Dates?

There are two correct ways to write dates. In American English, you will find MM/DD/YYYY, whereas, in Europe and British English, you will find DD/MM/YYYY. The European format is the most common format in the world, and the American one is only used within the USA.

uk us european date format

Oddly enough, the format MM/DD/YYYY was the original Anglo-Saxon way of writing a date. For that reason, it should be much more popular in British English than it is today.

However, most British English users will get very confused when looking at a MM/DD/YYYY date. For example:

  • 01/10/2012

Here, a British English speaker would assume you are referring to the 1st of October, 2012. However, if that was written with the American English format in mind, it would actually be the 10th of January.

As you can probably already tell, it gets very confusing very quickly for most native speakers.

Correct Date Format In The UK

The correct date format in the UK is DD/MM/YYYY. It is appropriate for British English users to use this form because of the more formal spoken rules associated with naming dates. They also took this form from Europe rather than keeping the original MM/DD/YYYY format.

If you were to ask a British English speaker what the date was today, they would more than likely say something like this:

  • It was the 1st of June, 2016.

The date (1st) comes before the month (June), so it makes sense for that to be adapted into the DD/MM/YYYY format.

To American English users, this idea of DD/MM/YYYY in spoken English sounds a bit too formal. Most of them prefer to say “June 1st” when they want to refer to what time of the year it is.

British English (and European countries) prefer the increasing size of the date format. Days are smaller than months, which are smaller than years. Therefore, it makes sense to write them in ascending order from smallest to largest.

In British English, you might see the following used:

  • 05/12/1996

Here, the 5th of December, 1996 is being referred to.

However, if an American English user were to look at that date, they would assume that you mean the 12th of May, 1996.

Correct Date Format In The US

In American English, the correct date format is MM/DD/YYYY. This comes from the original way of writing dates, according to Anglo-Saxon (old English) rules. It’s also more common for US speakers to phrase a date in this manner when asked for one.

Usually, you can refer to spoken English rules when you want to know which date format is more common. If you asked an American English speaker for the date, they are more likely to say:

  • It’s May 16th today.

Since the month comes before the date here, it makes more sense for them to follow the MM/DD/YYYY.

This concept of months coming before days is more informal, and many American users prefer it in conversational English. They will also often forego using the year at all because it might sound strange to say:

  • It’s May 16th, 2022, today.

After all, the likelihood is that you already know what year it is.

Since American English users use the reverse of the date format in British English, it can lead to some interesting results. Simple dates can be very confusing if you aren’t sure which format is being used.

American English would write their dates like so:

  • 12/05/2022

This date refers to the 5th of December, 2022. It’s fairly easy for American readers to understand, but it gets complicated when Europeans and British users look at it.

Outside of America, the above date would more than likely be perceived as the 12th of May, 2022.

The only way for European and British English users to tell the difference would be if they were presented with a day greater than 12 in the date:

  • 05/15/2000

Here, European and British speakers will understand they are looking at an American English date. The reason is that there are not 15 months in a calendar year, so the middle number must have to refer to a day rather than a month.

Correct Date Format In Europe

In European countries, the DD/MM/YYYY format is appropriate. British English took the format from their European cousins, so it makes sense for all of the countries within Europe to use the same idea. Also, using DD/MM in spoken English is more common in these countries.

All European countries tend to stick to the same idea with their date format. Whether you’re looking into Swedish, Danish, French, German, or any other country rules, you’ll find that DD/MM/YYYY is the most appropriate.

Date Formats In Other Regions Of The World

There are other date formats around the world that you might come across. It depends on the region that you’re in, but you’ll mainly come across DD/MM/YYYY wherever you are. YYYY/MM/DD is the next most popular format choice, coming from Asia mostly.

There are also some other European countries that might use the YYYY/MM/DD format. This is common practice and is exactly the same as DD/MM/YYYY. It’s simply written in reverse. You might find this as a Spanish or Russian format (though other European countries may use it).

Interestingly, many Asian countries like China and Japan stick to the year coming before the day and month in every situation. They only follow the YYYY/MM/DD format, and they will rarely place the day and month before the year.

Something like this date is coming in Asian countries:

  • 2016/07/05

Which means the 5th of July, 2016.

Countries like South Africa and Canada also have variation formats that allow them to switch between all the common ones. You’ll find that DD/MM/YYYY, MM/DD/YYYY, and YYYY/MM/DD are all used in these countries, allowing them to switch out whenever necessary.

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