Making Postgres date_trunc() use a Sunday based week

Postgres provides a function called date_trunc() which rounds a timestamp (or date) to various granularities including:

  • day
  • week
  • month
  • quarter
  • year

The value returned is the earliest moment of the specified interval that includes the supplied timestamp for example:

SELECT date_trunc('year', '2001-02-16'::date)::date;

gives the result 2001-01-01.

The problem with weeks…

The problem comes when you supply week as the granularity. Postgres thinks a week starts on a Monday so:

SELECT date_trunc('week', '2019-09-17'::date)::date;

returns 2019-09-16 which is a Monday.

So why is that a problem? Well not everyone thinks Monday is the start of the week. At my company apparently our customers usually think Sunday is the start of the week. This Quora response sums it up:

The first day of the week varies all over the world. In most cultures, Sunday is regarded as the first day of the week although many observe Monday as the first day of the week.

According to the Bible, the Sabbath or Saturday is the last day of the week which marks Sunday as the first day of the week for many Jewish and Christian faiths, while many countries regard Monday as the first day of the week.

According to the International standard ISO 8601, Monday is the first day of the week ending with Sunday as the seventh day of the week. Although this is the international standard, countries such as the United States still have their calendars refer to Sunday as the start of the seven-day week.

Personally I’m all about standards over conventions so if there is an ISO standard I’ll follow that, it also coincides with my work week, never mind what some Biblical Sunday based convention says.

And yet the customers still want a Sunday based week.

I looked and there is no hidden setting for Postgres that forces it to use a Sunday based week in date_trunc(). Fortunately the solution here is actually very simple, just use relativity! No, not Einstein’s relativity, just a relative calendar.

Let’s imagine there is your calendar where some day other than Monday is the start of the week, and there is the relative calendar where Monday is the start of week. Imagine you calendar is, as is the most common alternative, one where Sunday is the start of week. If we add one day to the date in your calendar then every Sunday would then be the next day i.e. Monday, this becomes the relative calendar date. If we compute date_trunc() on that date it will still be the same Monday so that’s good. Similarly Monday in your calendar becomes Tuesday in the relative one and date_trunc() will return Monday before that Tuesday. Similarly every Saturday in your calendar becomes the Sunday after in the relative calendar so date_trunc() will return the Monday before it. As we every Monday in the relative calendar is equivalent to the Sunday before it in your calendar. This is exactly what we want!

Let’s codify this process.

So if we think Sunday is the start of week add one day to the date before passing to date_trunc() which gives a result for a relative calendar where Monday is equivalent to your Sunday. So we then subtract one day from the result of date_trunc() and get the start of week in your calendar.

Conveniently in Postgres if you have a value that is a date you can simply add and subtract an integer and that’s the same as adding and subtracting the equivalent number of days.


SELECT date_trunc('week', '2019-09-17'::date + 1)::date - 1;

does the relative calendar calculation we want and returns 2019-09-15 which is Sunday.

What about the boundary conditions of a date that is already Sunday and is the last day of a week?

-- Sunday 2019-09-15
SELECT date_trunc('week', '2019-09-15'::date + 1)::date - 1;
-- Saturday 2019-09-14
SELECT date_trunc('week', '2019-09-14'::date + 1)::date - 1;

return 2019-09-15 (Sunday) and 2019-09-08 (previous Sunday) which is exactly what we want.

Also note we could just as easily subtract six days and then add six days after the result. They both work - it’s all relative! As you can see you could easily generalize this into a function week_trunc() that lets you say which day of the week should be considered the start and compute an appropriate offset to add and then subtract which is number of days that Monday is ahead of your week start day. Alternatively think of it like “if your week starts on day 0 and ends on day 6 what day number is Monday in your week?”.

Here’s that function for you with a default of Monday based weeks:

CREATE FUNCTION week_trunc(date, integer DEFAULT 0) RETURNS DATE AS $$
 SELECT DATE_TRUNC('week', $1 + $2)::date - $2
Written on October 17, 2019