DateTimeClasses {base}R Documentation

Date-Time Classes


Description of the classes "POSIXlt" and "POSIXct" representing calendar dates and times (to the nearest second).


## S3 method for class 'POSIXct':
print(x, ...)

## S3 method for class 'POSIXct':
summary(object, digits = 15, ...)

time + z
time - z
time1 lop time2


x, object An object to be printed or summarized from one of the date-time classes.
digits Number of significant digits for the computations: should be high enough to represent the least important time unit exactly.
... Further arguments to be passed from or to other methods.
time date-time objects
time1, time2 date-time objects or character vectors. (Character vectors are converted by as.POSIXct.
z a numeric vector (in seconds) or an object of class "difftime".
lop One of ==, !=, <, <=, > or >=.


There are two basic classes of date/times. Class "POSIXct" represents the (signed) number of seconds since the beginning of 1970 as a numeric vector. Class "POSIXlt" is a named list of vectors representing

0–61: seconds
0–59: minutes
0–23: hours
1–31: day of the month
0–11: months after the first of the year.
Years since 1900.
0–6 day of the week, starting on Sunday.
0–365: day of the year.
Daylight savings time flag. Positive if in force, zero if not, negative if unknown.

The classes correspond to the ANSI C constructs of “calendar time” (the time\_t data type) and “local time” (or broken-down time, the struct tm data type), from which they also inherit their names.

"POSIXct" is more convenient for including in data frames, and "POSIXlt" is closer to human-readable forms. A virtual class "POSIXt" inherits from both of the classes: it is used to allow operations such as subtraction to mix the two classes.

Logical comparisons and limited arithmetic are available for both classes. One can add or subtract a number of seconds from a date-time object, but not add two date-time objects. Subtraction of two date-time objects is equivalent to using difftime. Be aware that "POSIXlt" objects will be interpreted as being in the current timezone for these operations, unless a timezone has been specified.

"POSIXlt" objects will often have an attribute "tzone", a character vector of length 3 giving the timezone name from the TZ environment variable and the names of the base timezone and the alternate (daylight-saving) timezone. Sometimes this may just be of length one, giving the timezone name.

"POSIXct" objects may also have an attribute "tzone", a character vector of length one. If set, it will determine how the object is converted to class "POSIXlt" and in particular how it is printed. This is usually desirable, but if you want to specify an object in a particular timezone but to be printed in the current timezone you may want to remove the "tzone" attribute (e.g. by c(x)).

Unfortunately, the conversion is complicated by the operation of time zones and leap seconds (23 days have been 86401 seconds long so far: the times of the extra seconds are in the object .leap.seconds). The details of this are entrusted to the OS services where possible. This will usually cover the period 1970–2037, and on Unix machines back to 1902 (when time zones were in their infancy). Outside those ranges we use our own C code. This uses the offset from GMT in use in the timezone in one of 1970 to 1978 (chosen so that the likely DST transition days are Sundays), and uses the alternate (daylight-saving) timezone only if isdst is positive. (There is no reason to suppose that the DST rules will remain the same in the future, and indeed the US legislated in 2005 to change its rules as from 2007, with a possible future reversion.)

It seems that some systems use leap seconds but most do not. This is detected and corrected for at build time, so all "POSIXct" times used by R do not include leap seconds. (Conceivably this could be wrong if the system has changed since build time, just possibly by changing locales.)

Using c on "POSIXlt" objects converts them to the current time zone.

Sub-section Accuracy

Classes "POSIXct" and "POSIXlt" are able to express fractions of a second. (Conversion of fractions between the two forms may not be exact, but will have better than microsecond accuracy.)

Fractional seconds are printed only if options("digits.secs") is set: see strftime.


Some Unix-like systems (especially Linux ones) do not have "TZ" set, yet have internal code that expects it (as does POSIX). We have tried to work around this, but if you get unexpected results try setting "TZ". See as.POSIXlt for valid settings.

See Also

Dates for dates without times.

as.POSIXct and as.POSIXlt for conversion between the classes.

strptime for conversion to and from character representations.

Sys.time for clock time as a "POSIXct" object.

difftime for time intervals.

cut.POSIXt, seq.POSIXt, round.POSIXt and trunc.POSIXt for methods for these classes.

weekdays.POSIXt for convenience extraction functions.


(z <- Sys.time())             # the current date, as class "POSIXct"

Sys.time() - 3600             # an hour ago

as.POSIXlt(Sys.time(), "GMT") # the current time in GMT
format(.leap.seconds)         # all 23 leapseconds in your timezone
print(.leap.seconds, tz="PST8PDT")  # and in Seattle's

[Package base version 2.5.0 Index]