# Excel Formula for Difference Between Two Dates

When working with dates in Microsoft Excel, a common task is to calculate the difference between two dates. Whether you need to determine the number of days, months, or years between two dates, Excel provides a simple formula to achieve this. In this article, we will explore the **Excel formula for calculating the difference between two dates** and provide step-by-step instructions on how to use it effectively. We will also cover various examples and use cases to demonstrate the versatility of this formula in real-world scenarios.

## Understanding the Excel Date System

Before we dive into the formula, it’s essential to understand how Excel handles dates. In Excel, dates are stored as serial numbers, with January 1, 1900, being the starting point (serial number 1). Each subsequent day is represented by an incremental increase in the serial number. This system allows Excel to perform calculations on dates easily.

It’s worth noting that Excel treats the year 1900 as a leap year, even though it was not a leap year in the Gregorian calendar. This quirk is due to a compatibility issue with Lotus 1-2-3, an early spreadsheet program. However, this discrepancy does not affect date calculations in Excel for dates after February 28, 1900.

## The DATEDIF Function

Excel offers a built-in function called **DATEDIF** that calculates the difference between two dates. The DATEDIF function takes three arguments:

- Start_date: The first date in the calculation
- End_date: The second date in the calculation
- Unit: The unit in which you want the result (e.g., days, months, or years)

The syntax for the DATEDIF function is as follows:

=DATEDIF(start_date, end_date, unit)

### Calculating the Difference in Days

To calculate the number of days between two dates, use the DATEDIF function with the unit argument set to “d”. For example:

=DATEDIF(A1, B1, “d”)

This formula calculates the number of days between the dates in cells A1 and B1.

### Calculating the Difference in Months

To calculate the number of complete months between two dates, use the DATEDIF function with the unit argument set to “m”. For example:

=DATEDIF(A1, B1, “m”)

This formula calculates the number of complete months between the dates in cells A1 and B1.

It’s important to note that the DATEDIF function calculates the number of complete months, ignoring any partial months. For example, if the start date is January 15 and the end date is March 14, the function will return 1 month, as there is only one complete month (February) between the two dates.

### Calculating the Difference in Years

To calculate the number of complete years between two dates, use the DATEDIF function with the unit argument set to “y”. For example:

=DATEDIF(A1, B1, “y”)

This formula calculates the number of complete years between the dates in cells A1 and B1.

Similar to the calculation of months, the DATEDIF function calculates the number of complete years, ignoring any partial years. For example, if the start date is January 1, 2020, and the end date is December 31, 2022, the function will return 2 years, as there are two complete years between the two dates.

## Examples and Use Cases

Let’s explore some practical examples of using the DATEDIF function in various scenarios.

### Example 1: Calculating Age

Suppose you have a list of birthdays in column A and you want to calculate the age of each person in column B. You can use the following formula:

=DATEDIF(A2, TODAY(), “y”)

This formula calculates the number of complete years between the birthday in cell A2 and the current date (obtained using the TODAY() function).

To make the age calculation more precise, you can use a combination of the DATEDIF function and the DATE function. The DATE function allows you to construct a date based on year, month, and day values. Here’s an example:

=DATEDIF(A2, DATE(YEAR(TODAY()), MONTH(A2), DAY(A2)), “y”)

In this formula, the DATE function constructs a date using the current year (obtained using the YEAR and TODAY functions) and the month and day from the birthday in cell A2. This ensures that the age calculation considers the current year and the person’s actual birth month and day.

### Example 2: Calculating Tenure

If you have a list of employee start dates in column A and you want to calculate their tenure in years, months, and days, you can use the following formulas:

Years: =DATEDIF(A2, TODAY(), “y”)

Months: =DATEDIF(A2, TODAY(), “ym”)

Days: =DATEDIF(A2, TODAY(), “md”)

The “ym” unit calculates the number of months excluding complete years, while the “md” unit calculates the number of days excluding complete months.

To display the tenure in a more readable format, you can combine the results of these formulas into a single cell using the CONCATENATE function or the “&” operator. For example:

=DATEDIF(A2, TODAY(), “y”) & ” years, ” & DATEDIF(A2, TODAY(), “ym”) & ” months, ” & DATEDIF(A2, TODAY(), “md”) & ” days”

This formula combines the years, months, and days into a single string, making it easier to understand the tenure at a glance.

### Example 3: Calculating Project Duration

When managing projects, you often need to calculate the duration between two milestone dates. Suppose you have the start date in cell A2 and the end date in cell B2. You can calculate the project duration in days using the following formula:

=DATEDIF(A2, B2, “d”)

This formula calculates the number of days between the start and end dates of the project.

To calculate the project duration in weeks, you can modify the formula slightly:

=DATEDIF(A2, B2, “d”)/7

This formula divides the number of days by 7 to obtain the duration in weeks.

## Handling Leap Years

It’s important to note that the DATEDIF function takes leap years into account when performing calculations. For example, if you calculate the difference between February 28, 2020, and March 1, 2020, the result will be 2 days, as 2020 was a leap year with 366 days.

When calculating the difference in years, the DATEDIF function considers the number of complete years between the two dates, regardless of whether the years are leap years or not. However, when calculating the difference in days or months, leap years are taken into account to ensure accurate results.

## Common Errors and Troubleshooting

When using the DATEDIF function, you may encounter some common errors. Here are a few tips to troubleshoot them:

- Ensure that the start_date is earlier than the end_date. If the start_date is later than the end_date, the function will return a #NUM! error.
- Make sure that the dates are entered in a valid date format recognized by Excel. If the dates are not in a valid format, the function may return a #VALUE! error.
- Double-check the spelling of the unit argument. If the unit is not specified correctly (e.g., using “days” instead of “d”), the function will return a #VALUE! error.

If you encounter any errors or unexpected results, it’s always a good idea to check the format of your date values and ensure that they are entered correctly. You can also use the DATE function to construct dates from separate year, month, and day values to avoid any formatting issues.

## Final Thoughts

Calculating the difference between two dates is a common task in Excel, and the DATEDIF function makes it simple and efficient. By understanding how to use the DATEDIF function with different unit arguments, you can easily determine the number of days, months, or years between two dates. Whether you’re calculating ages, project durations, or any other time-based metrics, the DATEDIF function is a valuable tool in your Excel toolkit.

Remember to ensure that the dates are entered correctly and in a valid format to avoid any errors. With the DATEDIF function, you can perform date calculations with confidence and streamline your Excel workflows.

By exploring various examples and use cases, you can see how the DATEDIF function can be applied in real-world scenarios. From calculating ages and tenures to determining project durations, this versatile function can handle a wide range of date-related calculations.

## FAQs

### What is the Excel formula for calculating the difference between two dates?

The Excel formula for calculating the difference between two dates is the DATEDIF function. The syntax is =DATEDIF(start_date, end_date, unit), where start_date is the first date, end_date is the second date, and unit is the unit in which you want the result (e.g., “d” for days, “m” for months, or “y” for years).

### How do I calculate the number of days between two dates in Excel?

To calculate the number of days between two dates in Excel, use the DATEDIF function with the unit argument set to “d”. For example, =DATEDIF(A1, B1, “d”) calculates the number of days between the dates in cells A1 and B1.

### Can the DATEDIF function calculate the difference in months or years?

Yes, the DATEDIF function can calculate the difference in months or years. To calculate the number of complete months between two dates, use the unit argument “m”. For example, =DATEDIF(A1, B1, “m”). To calculate the number of complete years, use the unit argument “y”. For example, =DATEDIF(A1, B1, “y”).

### How does the DATEDIF function handle leap years?

The DATEDIF function takes leap years into account when performing calculations. For example, if you calculate the difference between February 28, 2020, and March 1, 2020, the result will be 2 days, as 2020 was a leap year with 366 days.

### What should I do if I encounter errors when using the DATEDIF function?

If you encounter errors when using the DATEDIF function, ensure that the start_date is earlier than the end_date, the dates are entered in a valid date format recognized by Excel, and the unit argument is spelled correctly. Double-check these aspects to troubleshoot any errors.

Vaishvi Desai is the founder of Excelsamurai and a passionate Excel enthusiast with years of experience in data analysis and spreadsheet management. With a mission to help others harness the power of Excel, Vaishvi shares her expertise through concise, easy-to-follow tutorials on shortcuts, formulas, Pivot Tables, and VBA.