16.3. time — Time access and conversions

This module provides various time-related functions. For related functionality, see also the datetime and calendar modules.

Although this module is always available, not all functions are available on all platforms. Most of the functions defined in this module call platform C library functions with the same name. It may sometimes be helpful to consult the platform documentation, because the semantics of these functions varies among platforms.

An explanation of some terminology and conventions is in order.

  • The epoch is the point where the time starts. On January 1st of that year, at 0 hours, the “time since the epoch” is zero. For Unix, the epoch is 1970. To find out what the epoch is, look at gmtime(0).
  • The functions in this module may not handle dates and times before the epoch or far in the future. The cut-off point in the future is determined by the C library; for 32-bit systems, it is typically in 2038.
  • Year 2000 (Y2K) issues: Python depends on the platform’s C library, which generally doesn’t have year 2000 issues, since all dates and times are represented internally as seconds since the epoch. Function strptime() can parse 2-digit years when given %y format code. When 2-digit years are parsed, they are converted according to the POSIX and ISO C standards: values 69–99 are mapped to 1969–1999, and values 0–68 are mapped to 2000–2068.
  • UTC is Coordinated Universal Time (formerly known as Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT). The acronym UTC is not a mistake but a compromise between English and French.
  • DST is Daylight Saving Time, an adjustment of the timezone by (usually) one hour during part of the year. DST rules are magic (determined by local law) and can change from year to year. The C library has a table containing the local rules (often it is read from a system file for flexibility) and is the only source of True Wisdom in this respect.

  • The precision of the various real-time functions may be less than suggested by the units in which their value or argument is expressed. E.g. on most Unix systems, the clock “ticks” only 50 or 100 times a second.

  • On the other hand, the precision of time() and sleep() is better than their Unix equivalents: times are expressed as floating point numbers, time() returns the most accurate time available (using Unix gettimeofday() where available), and sleep() will accept a time with a nonzero fraction (Unix select() is used to implement this, where available).

  • The time value as returned by gmtime(), localtime(), and strptime(), and accepted by asctime(), mktime() and strftime(), is a sequence of 9 integers. The return values of gmtime(), localtime(), and strptime() also offer attribute names for individual fields.

    See struct_time for a description of these objects.

    Changed in version 3.3: The struct_time type was extended to provide the tm_gmtoff and tm_zone attributes when platform supports corresponding struct tm members.

  • Use the following functions to convert between time representations:

    From To Use
    seconds since the epoch struct_time in UTC gmtime()
    seconds since the epoch struct_time in local time localtime()
    struct_time in UTC seconds since the epoch calendar.timegm()
    struct_time in local time seconds since the epoch mktime()

The module defines the following functions and data items:


The offset of the local DST timezone, in seconds west of UTC, if one is defined. This is negative if the local DST timezone is east of UTC (as in Western Europe, including the UK). Only use this if daylight is nonzero.


Convert a tuple or struct_time representing a time as returned by gmtime() or localtime() to a string of the following form: 'Sun Jun 20 23:21:05 1993'. If t is not provided, the current time as returned by localtime() is used. Locale information is not used by asctime().


Unlike the C function of the same name, asctime() does not add a trailing newline.


On Unix, return the current processor time as a floating point number expressed in seconds. The precision, and in fact the very definition of the meaning of “processor time”, depends on that of the C function of the same name.

On Windows, this function returns wall-clock seconds elapsed since the first call to this function, as a floating point number, based on the Win32 function QueryPerformanceCounter(). The resolution is typically better than one microsecond.

Deprecated since version 3.3: The behaviour of this function depends on the platform: use perf_counter() or process_time() instead, depending on your requirements, to have a well defined behaviour.


Return the resolution (precision) of the specified clock clk_id.

Availability: Unix.

New in version 3.3.


Return the time of the specified clock clk_id.

Availability: Unix.

New in version 3.3.

time.clock_settime(clk_id, time)

Set the time of the specified clock clk_id.

Availability: Unix.

New in version 3.3.


The Solaris OS has a CLOCK_HIGHRES timer that attempts to use an optimal hardware source, and may give close to nanosecond resolution. CLOCK_HIGHRES is the nonadjustable, high-resolution clock.

Availability: Solaris.

New in version 3.3.


Clock that cannot be set and represents monotonic time since some unspecified starting point.

Availability: Unix.

New in version 3.3.


Similar to CLOCK_MONOTONIC, but provides access to a raw hardware-based time that is not subject to NTP adjustments.

Availability: Linux 2.6.28 or later.

New in version 3.3.


High-resolution per-process timer from the CPU.

Availability: Unix.

New in version 3.3.


System-wide real-time clock. Setting this clock requires appropriate privileges.

Availability: Unix.

New in version 3.3.


Thread-specific CPU-time clock.

Availability: Unix.

New in version 3.3.


Convert a time expressed in seconds since the epoch to a string representing local time. If secs is not provided or None, the current time as returned by time() is used. ctime(secs) is equivalent to asctime(localtime(secs)). Locale information is not used by ctime().


Nonzero if a DST timezone is defined.


Get information on the specified clock as a namespace object. Supported clock names and the corresponding functions to read their value are:

The result has the following attributes:

  • adjustable: True if the clock can be changed automatically (e.g. by a NTP daemon) or manually by the system administrator, False otherwise
  • implementation: The name of the underlying C function used to get the clock value
  • monotonic: True if the clock cannot go backward, False otherwise
  • resolution: The resolution of the clock in seconds (float)

New in version 3.3.


Convert a time expressed in seconds since the epoch to a struct_time in UTC in which the dst flag is always zero. If secs is not provided or None, the current time as returned by time() is used. Fractions of a second are ignored. See above for a description of the struct_time object. See calendar.timegm() for the inverse of this function.


Like gmtime() but converts to local time. If secs is not provided or None, the current time as returned by time() is used. The dst flag is set to 1 when DST applies to the given time.


This is the inverse function of localtime(). Its argument is the struct_time or full 9-tuple (since the dst flag is needed; use -1 as the dst flag if it is unknown) which expresses the time in local time, not UTC. It returns a floating point number, for compatibility with time(). If the input value cannot be represented as a valid time, either OverflowError or ValueError will be raised (which depends on whether the invalid value is caught by Python or the underlying C libraries). The earliest date for which it can generate a time is platform-dependent.


Return the value (in fractional seconds) of a monotonic clock, i.e. a clock that cannot go backwards. The clock is not affected by system clock updates. The reference point of the returned value is undefined, so that only the difference between the results of consecutive calls is valid.

On Windows versions older than Vista, monotonic() detects GetTickCount() integer overflow (32 bits, roll-over after 49.7 days). It increases an internal epoch (reference time) by 232 each time that an overflow is detected. The epoch is stored in the process-local state and so the value of monotonic() may be different in two Python processes running for more than 49 days. On more recent versions of Windows and on other operating systems, monotonic() is system-wide.

New in version 3.3.

Changed in version 3.5: The function is now always available.


Return the value (in fractional seconds) of a performance counter, i.e. a clock with the highest available resolution to measure a short duration. It does include time elapsed during sleep and is system-wide. The reference point of the returned value is undefined, so that only the difference between the results of consecutive calls is valid.

New in version 3.3.


Return the value (in fractional seconds) of the sum of the system and user CPU time of the current process. It does not include time elapsed during sleep. It is process-wide by definition. The reference point of the returned value is undefined, so that only the difference between the results of consecutive calls is valid.

New in version 3.3.


Suspend execution of the calling thread for the given number of seconds. The argument may be a floating point number to indicate a more precise sleep time. The actual suspension time may be less than that requested because any caught signal will terminate the sleep() following execution of that signal’s catching routine. Also, the suspension time may be longer than requested by an arbitrary amount because of the scheduling of other activity in the system.

Changed in version 3.5: The function now sleeps at least secs even if the sleep is interrupted by a signal, except if the signal handler raises an exception (see PEP 475 for the rationale).

time.strftime(format[, t])

Convert a tuple or struct_time representing a time as returned by gmtime() or localtime() to a string as specified by the format argument. If t is not provided, the current time as returned by localtime() is used. format must be a string. ValueError is raised if any field in t is outside of the allowed range.

0 is a legal argument for any position in the time tuple; if it is normally illegal the value is forced to a correct one.

The following directives can be embedded in the format string. They are shown without the optional field width and precision specification, and are replaced by the indicated characters in the strftime() result:

Directive Meaning Notes
%a Locale’s abbreviated weekday name.  
%A Locale’s full weekday name.  
%b Locale’s abbreviated month name.  
%B Locale’s full month name.  
%c Locale’s appropriate date and time representation.  
%d Day of the month as a decimal number [01,31].  
%H Hour (24-hour clock) as a decimal number [00,23].  
%I Hour (12-hour clock) as a decimal number [01,12].  
%j Day of the year as a decimal number [001,366].  
%m Month as a decimal number [01,12].  
%M Minute as a decimal number [00,59].  
%p Locale’s equivalent of either AM or PM. (1)
%S Second as a decimal number [00,61]. (2)
%U Week number of the year (Sunday as the first day of the week) as a decimal number [00,53]. All days in a new year preceding the first Sunday are considered to be in week 0. (3)
%w Weekday as a decimal number [0(Sunday),6].  
%W Week number of the year (Monday as the first day of the week) as a decimal number [00,53]. All days in a new year preceding the first Monday are considered to be in week 0. (3)
%x Locale’s appropriate date representation.  
%X Locale’s appropriate time representation.  
%y Year without century as a decimal number [00,99].  
%Y Year with century as a decimal number.  
%z Time zone offset indicating a positive or negative time difference from UTC/GMT of the form +HHMM or -HHMM, where H represents decimal hour digits and M represents decimal minute digits [-23:59, +23:59].  
%Z Time zone name (no characters if no time zone exists).  
%% A literal '%' character.  


  1. When used with the strptime() function, the %p directive only affects the output hour field if the %I directive is used to parse the hour.
  2. The range really is 0 to 61; value 60 is valid in timestamps representing leap seconds and value 61 is supported for historical reasons.
  3. When used with the strptime() function, %U and %W are only used in calculations when the day of the week and the year are specified.

Here is an example, a format for dates compatible with that specified in the RFC 2822 Internet email standard. [1]

>>> from time import gmtime, strftime
>>> strftime("%a, %d %b %Y %H:%M:%S +0000", gmtime())
'Thu, 28 Jun 2001 14:17:15 +0000'

Additional directives may be supported on certain platforms, but only the ones listed here have a meaning standardized by ANSI C. To see the full set of format codes supported on your platform, consult the strftime(3) documentation.

On some platforms, an optional field width and precision specification can immediately follow the initial '%' of a directive in the following order; this is also not portable. The field width is normally 2 except for %j where it is 3.

time.strptime(string[, format])

Parse a string representing a time according to a format. The return value is a struct_time as returned by gmtime() or localtime().

The format parameter uses the same directives as those used by strftime(); it defaults to "%a %b %d %H:%M:%S %Y" which matches the formatting returned by ctime(). If string cannot be parsed according to format, or if it has excess data after parsing, ValueError is raised. The default values used to fill in any missing data when more accurate values cannot be inferred are (1900, 1, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, -1). Both string and format must be strings.

For example:

>>> import time
>>> time.strptime("30 Nov 00", "%d %b %y")   
time.struct_time(tm_year=2000, tm_mon=11, tm_mday=30, tm_hour=0, tm_min=0,
                 tm_sec=0, tm_wday=3, tm_yday=335, tm_isdst=-1)

Support for the %Z directive is based on the values contained in tzname and whether daylight is true. Because of this, it is platform-specific except for recognizing UTC and GMT which are always known (and are considered to be non-daylight savings timezones).

Only the directives specified in the documentation are supported. Because strftime() is implemented per platform it can sometimes offer more directives than those listed. But strptime() is independent of any platform and thus does not necessarily support all directives available that are not documented as supported.

class time.struct_time

The type of the time value sequence returned by gmtime(), localtime(), and strptime(). It is an object with a named tuple interface: values can be accessed by index and by attribute name. The following values are present:

Index Attribute Values
0 tm_year (for example, 1993)
1 tm_mon range [1, 12]
2 tm_mday range [1, 31]
3 tm_hour range [0, 23]
4 tm_min range [0, 59]
5 tm_sec range [0, 61]; see (2) in strftime() description
6 tm_wday range [0, 6], Monday is 0
7 tm_yday range [1, 366]
8 tm_isdst 0, 1 or -1; see below
N/A tm_zone abbreviation of timezone name
N/A tm_gmtoff offset east of UTC in seconds

Note that unlike the C structure, the month value is a range of [1, 12], not [0, 11].

In calls to mktime(), tm_isdst may be set to 1 when daylight savings time is in effect, and 0 when it is not. A value of -1 indicates that this is not known, and will usually result in the correct state being filled in.

When a tuple with an incorrect length is passed to a function expecting a struct_time, or having elements of the wrong type, a TypeError is raised.

Changed in version 3.3: tm_gmtoff and tm_zone attributes are available on platforms with C library supporting the corresponding fields in struct tm.


Return the time in seconds since the epoch as a floating point number. Note that even though the time is always returned as a floating point number, not all systems provide time with a better precision than 1 second. While this function normally returns non-decreasing values, it can return a lower value than a previous call if the system clock has been set back between the two calls.


The offset of the local (non-DST) timezone, in seconds west of UTC (negative in most of Western Europe, positive in the US, zero in the UK).


A tuple of two strings: the first is the name of the local non-DST timezone, the second is the name of the local DST timezone. If no DST timezone is defined, the second string should not be used.


Resets the time conversion rules used by the library routines. The environment variable TZ specifies how this is done.

Availability: Unix.


Although in many cases, changing the TZ environment variable may affect the output of functions like localtime() without calling tzset(), this behavior should not be relied on.

The TZ environment variable should contain no whitespace.

The standard format of the TZ environment variable is (whitespace added for clarity):

std offset [dst [offset [,start[/time], end[/time]]]]

Where the components are:

std and dst
Three or more alphanumerics giving the timezone abbreviations. These will be propagated into time.tzname
The offset has the form: ± hh[:mm[:ss]]. This indicates the value added the local time to arrive at UTC. If preceded by a ‘-‘, the timezone is east of the Prime Meridian; otherwise, it is west. If no offset follows dst, summer time is assumed to be one hour ahead of standard time.
start[/time], end[/time]

Indicates when to change to and back from DST. The format of the start and end dates are one of the following:

The Julian day n (1 <= n <= 365). Leap days are not counted, so in all years February 28 is day 59 and March 1 is day 60.
The zero-based Julian day (0 <= n <= 365). Leap days are counted, and it is possible to refer to February 29.
The d‘th day (0 <= d <= 6) or week n of month m of the year (1 <= n <= 5, 1 <= m <= 12, where week 5 means “the last d day in month m” which may occur in either the fourth or the fifth week). Week 1 is the first week in which the d‘th day occurs. Day zero is Sunday.

time has the same format as offset except that no leading sign (‘-‘ or ‘+’) is allowed. The default, if time is not given, is 02:00:00.

>>> os.environ['TZ'] = 'EST+05EDT,M4.1.0,M10.5.0'
>>> time.tzset()
>>> time.strftime('%X %x %Z')
'02:07:36 05/08/03 EDT'
>>> os.environ['TZ'] = 'AEST-10AEDT-11,M10.5.0,M3.5.0'
>>> time.tzset()
>>> time.strftime('%X %x %Z')
'16:08:12 05/08/03 AEST'

On many Unix systems (including *BSD, Linux, Solaris, and Darwin), it is more convenient to use the system’s zoneinfo (tzfile(5)) database to specify the timezone rules. To do this, set the TZ environment variable to the path of the required timezone datafile, relative to the root of the systems ‘zoneinfo’ timezone database, usually located at /usr/share/zoneinfo. For example, 'US/Eastern', 'Australia/Melbourne', 'Egypt' or 'Europe/Amsterdam'.

>>> os.environ['TZ'] = 'US/Eastern'
>>> time.tzset()
>>> time.tzname
('EST', 'EDT')
>>> os.environ['TZ'] = 'Egypt'
>>> time.tzset()
>>> time.tzname
('EET', 'EEST')

See also

Module datetime
More object-oriented interface to dates and times.
Module locale
Internationalization services. The locale setting affects the interpretation of many format specifiers in strftime() and strptime().
Module calendar
General calendar-related functions. timegm() is the inverse of gmtime() from this module.


[1]The use of %Z is now deprecated, but the %z escape that expands to the preferred hour/minute offset is not supported by all ANSI C libraries. Also, a strict reading of the original 1982 RFC 822 standard calls for a two-digit year (%y rather than %Y), but practice moved to 4-digit years long before the year 2000. After that, RFC 822 became obsolete and the 4-digit year has been first recommended by RFC 1123 and then mandated by RFC 2822.