When to use "the" before a date?

I came across the following sentence:

It dates back to the 6th century BC.

When I looked up when to use the before dates, I read an example sentence from Cambridge Grammar online resources. It says it is correct to write :

Today is the 7th September

Avoidably I am confused when to use the with dates and what does it mean? It is about style?

PS : I know there is already a bit confusion or maybe we can call it varieties of writing dates in terms of format because of regional differences and how to write a date was asked before so I will assume the following formats are standard ones. However, if you think the use of the is part of varieties of writing dates, you can include this point with giving different formats.

American English : September 7, 2016

British English : 7 September 2016

There is another thread asked regarding this issue on ELL but the answer is not enough , when we compare it with Cambridge Grammar online resources

There is another thread on ELU on general rules of writing formats.

3 Answers 3


You use "the" when referring to a time period rather than a date

In the 1700s

In the 6th century

You should also use "the" in certain date formats.

Today is the 7th of September

without "of", the above does not work.

Today is September 7th

is also acceptable.

I don't think I've ever heard someone from the UK say "today is 7th september", despite the date format being dd/mm/yyyy.

  • Out of interest, how exactly is "My birthday is the 28th of January" wrong? I'm not disagreeing with you that it could be wrong, just wondering what the logic behind it being wrong is. I've always heard people use dates in this way and have always assumed it was correct. As you say, it's certainly going to be understood.
    – 3N1GM4
    Dec 22, 2016 at 16:52
  • Sorry, my comment is broken up by the quote, let me edit it so my meaning is clear. I don't think its wrong, but I give an example of a perhaps more exact phrase. It is only wrong in the sense that "January 28th" is not your birthday. It is the date on which your birthday falls, but the colloquial meaning is identical.
    – mstorkson
    Dec 22, 2016 at 16:53
  • Ah, I see - which site exactly are you saying claims that "My birthday is the 28th of January" is wrong? I'm interested to understand any reasoning as to why this could be considered incorrect.
    – 3N1GM4
    Dec 22, 2016 at 16:57
  • so you say it is wrong to say "Today is the 7th September" ?
    – Mrt
    Dec 22, 2016 at 17:00
  • 2
    Yes, that phrasing is wrong. You would say "the 7th of September" instead. Unless you were referencing 6 previous septembers, in which case "this is the 7th September in which we've had snowfall since I started living here"
    – mstorkson
    Dec 22, 2016 at 17:02

I've been searching information ona webpgae about the uses of time prepositions and I came across this photo. Three of them don't have the "of" and one of them has it. But I don't know know if the four are wrong or only those which don't have the "of".

enter image description here

  • The question is about the, not of.
    – CDR
    Dec 29, 2023 at 8:19
  • @CDRYes but I woul like to know if these are correct or not. Or elese I Dec 29, 2023 at 12:49

whatever the writer pointed out to a certain date, they usually use 'the', and they also use it to mention a whole period of time such as the 80s or 90s and so on.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .