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How to Resolve the "Not a Valid Month" Error with Oracle TO_DATE

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3 Jun 2015CPOL3 min read 438.9K   1
The "ORA-01843: not a valid month" error is quite common for Oracle SQL developers, and can be fixed in a few ways.


If you're an Oracle SQL developer, you would have seen the "not a valid month" error quite a lot in your career. In this article, I'll discuss what the error means and a few ways you can solve it.


What Is The "Not a Valid Month" Error?

This error message appears in Oracle when you're using the TO_DATE function in an SQL statement, but you get an error with the output:

ORA-01843: not a valid month

The TO_DATE function should be converting your input into a DATE value, but there is some error happening that's preventing you from doing this.

TO_DATE Syntax

The syntax of the TO_DATE function is:

TO_DATE( string1, [ format_mask ], [nls_language ] )

The first parameter is your input string, and is the only mandatory field. The second parameter is the format mask of the input value, and the third is the language of the date value. We'll cover both of these below.

Causes and Fixes for the Error

There are a few causes of this error.

First of all, the most common cause is how you've specified the month value inside your TO_DATE parameter. 

It can often be a typo, such as entering a value of "13" for the month (as there are only 12 months) or entering a value of "JNA" instead of "JAN" for January.

SELECT TO_DATE('01-JNA-2015') FROM dual;

Fix: To fix this, update your SQL statement to remove the mistake and use the correct month value.

SELECT TO_DATE('01-JAN-2015') FROM dual;

If the value is correct, and you're still getting the error, it could be to do with the format you've entered.

TO_DATE allows you to enter a format along with the input value. The format reflects what the input value is, not the output value, like some other functions. The output value is always a DATE, so it doesn't need a format. The input value does need a format.

If you've entered a valid value for the month, such as "JAN" or 12, then it might be that your format does not match up to the input value.

For example:

SELECT TO_DATE('14-APR-2015', 'MM-DD-YYYY') FROM dual;

This query will show you an error because the value expected for the month is in the wrong order, and 14 is too high of a value for the month.

Fix: Either update the input value to match the format, or update the format to match the input value.


Finally, if neither of those solutions work, or if you're not specifying a format value, then it is most likely a database setting.

Sessions on your database are created in a certain language format or date format. These are set up when Oracle is installed, but can be modified for a session.

This is relevant because different locations and countries in the world have different ways of specifying dates.

You can find out what your database is doing by querying two values on your database.

The first is the NLS_DATE_LANGUAGE

SELECT * FROM nls_session_parameters WHERE parameter = 'NLS_DATE_LANGUAGE';


Your query should show something that is related to your location, such as 'AMERICAN'. My example shows 'ENGLISH' as I'm based in Australia.

The second value, and probably the more important value for this error, is the NLS_DATE_FORMAT.

SELECT * FROM nls_session_parameters WHERE parameter = 'NLS_DATE_FORMAT';


This will show you the actual format that dates are expected to be in, if the format is not specified in the function.

As you can see, my format is 'DD/MON/RR'. This is the format that the TO_DATE function expects. If the input I'm supplying is different to this, I'll get an error.

SELECT TO_DATE('05-22-2015') FROM dual;

ORA-01843: not a valid month

If you're getting this error, it could be because your input value does not match the format for your database.

Fix: There are a couple of ways to fix this. Either change the input value in your function to match your format, specify a format inside your function.

You can also change the value of this database parameter for your session by using the ALTER SESSION command.

SELECT TO_DATE('05-22-2015') FROM dual;


So, the "not a valid month" error can be resolved after looking into a few different causes. Most likely it's a typing error or format mismatch, but there are a few ways to check.



Keep a running update of any changes or improvements you've made here.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

Comments and Discussions

Answeruse 11-jan-2001 insteam of 11-01-2001 Pin
Dhiraj 122825-Oct-22 3:32
Dhiraj 122825-Oct-22 3:32 

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