2 packages for extracting dates from a string of text in Python

python extract dates from a sentence in python


This post will cover two different ways to extract a date from a string of text in Python. The main purpose here is that the strings we will parse contain additional text – not just the date. Scraping a date out of text can be useful in many different situations.

Option 1) dateutil

The first option we’ll show is using the dateutil package. Here’s an example:


from dateutil.parser import parse

parse("Today is 12-01-18", fuzzy_with_tokens=True)

python dateutils example_1

Above, we use a method in dateutil called parse. The first parameter to this method is the string of the text we want to use to search for a date. The second parameter, fuzzy_with_tokens, is set equal to True – this causes the method to return where the date is found in the string. In other words, in the string above, the date is found after the substring “Today is “, which is specified in the tuple output. If we want to get just the returned datetime object, we can do this:


result = parse("Today is 12-01-18", fuzzy_with_tokens=True)

# get just the datetime object
result[0]

Let’s see how much we can vary a particular date:


parse("Today is December 1, 2018", fuzzy_with_tokens=True)

parse("Today is Dec 1 2018", fuzzy_with_tokens=True)

parse("Today is Dec 1", fuzzy_with_tokens=True)

python dateutils example 2

In the third line of code above, we don’t specify the year. Here, dateutil assumes by default the year associated with the date is the current one (2018).

If we follow up the last example above of Dec 1 with the two-digit abbreviation of a year, dateutil is good enough to figure that out:


parse("Today is Dec 1 16", fuzzy_with_tokens=True)

parse("Today is Dec 1 14", fuzzy_with_tokens=True)

parse("Today is Nov 30 12", fuzzy_with_tokens=True)


python dateutils example 3

In the string below, we leave off the year and month, and just say “on the 14th.” In this case, dateutil will assume the month and year are the current month and year, but will parse out the day from the string (in this case, the 14th).


parse("on the 14th", fuzzy_with_tokens=True)

python dateutils example 4

What if we want to pass a string that has multiple dates?


parse("The next one will be on 12-02-18 or 12-03-18", fuzzy_with_tokens=True)

By default, the parse method will only return the first date found in the string.

python dateutils example5

We could tinker with the method and write some additional code to handle multiple dates in a string, but there is an alternative in the dateparser package.


Option 2) dateparser

The dateparser package comes with an option to search for dates in a string, using a method called search_dates.


from dateparser.search import search_dates

search_dates("find 12/15/18 in this string")

python dateparser search_dates



search_dates also returns a tuple result, except that the first element of this result is the actual substring identified as a datetime.

Next, if we do the example we did above with dateutil we get back two results. This is because dateparser is flagging the word “today” as a reference to a date, as well as finding the date “12-01-18.”


search_dates("Today is 12-01-18")

python dateparser search_dates

Likewise, the examples below also identify the word “today” as today’s date, while capturing variations of the date “December 1, 2018.”


search_dates("Today is December 1, 2018")

search_dates("Today is Dec 1 2018")

search_dates("Today is Dec 1")

python dateparser search_dates

A few more examples like above:


search_dates("Today is Dec 1 16") 

search_dates("Today is Dec 1 14")

search_dates("Today is Nov 30 12")

python dateparser search_dates

Because search_dates tells us what substring is matched to a datetime, we could exclude results matching to “today” like this:


results = search_dates("Today is December 1, 2018")

need = [result for result in results if result[0].tolower() != "today"]

Here we just use a list comprehension to filter the datetime results to those that don’t match to the word “today.”

What if we want to search a longer piece of text? For example, let’s suppose we want to search the Wikipedia page on Python for all the appearing datetimes.


# load additional packages
from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
import requests

# get HTML content / BeautifulSoup object
resp = requests.get("https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Python_(programming_language)")
soup = BeautifulSoup(resp.content)

# search for all paragraphs on the webpage 
paragraphs = soup.find_all("p")

# get the text for each paragraph
text = [x.text for x in paragraphs]

# scrape any dates from each paragraph
results = []
for paragraph in text:
    try:
        results.append(search_dates(paragraph))
    except Exception:
        pass

Now results contains a list of the datetimes that appear in the Wikipedia page text. We can get a count of how many datetimes were found using the below code:


counts = [0 if result is None else len(result) for result in results]

sum(counts)

Above, we use a list comprehension again. This time, we loop through the datetime results, giving a count of zero if None is returned for a given paragraph (i.e. if no datetime is found in a paragraph); otherwise the number of datetimes gets returned and stored in the list, counts. Summing the counts variable tells us the total number of datetimes found by searching through all the paragraphs on the webpage. In this case, there are 71.

python dateparser list comprehension counts

That’s all for this post! Please check out my other Python posts by clicking here.