Python Substring ExamplesUse slices on strings to take substrings. Slice syntax works as a substring method.
String slice. Python has no substring method. Instead, we use slice syntax to get parts of existing strings. We specify starts and ends.
Some hints. With indexes and slices, we have one, two or three parts. We use a start index and an end index (not a length). The final value is a step—an amount to skip between.
We begin with an example that slices a string within a for-loop. The loop iterates through a range of the string. We test several syntax forms.
Note: The item access, s[n], requires only one number. This is an index access. It can be thought of as a 1-element slice.
Tip: A skip value is rarely helpful on strings. It serves mostly to make programs harder to understand.
Python program that slices string
s = "abcdefghijklmnopqrs"
# Loop over some indexes.
for n in range(2, 4):
# Print slices.
print(n, s[n:n + 2])
print(n, s[n:n + 3])
print(n, s[n:n + 4:2])
print(n, s[n:n + 6:2])
Consider this program. It uses index accesses to get one-character substrings. We can test these substrings in an if-statement.If
Python program that gets one-character substring
value = "web"
# Loop over every index in string.
for index in range(0, len(value)):
# Get one-character substring.
char = value[index]
# Display substring.
# Test substring.
if char == "w":
We do not specify a length to get a substring with slice syntax. But when the start is equal to zero, the second argument will be the length.
Tip: The length of the slice is the difference between the two arguments (subtract the first from the second).
Python program that takes substrings
string = "abcdefgh"
# Two-character substring.
two = string[0:2]
# Three-character substring.
three = string[0:3]
# Four-character substring.
four = string[0:4]
# Five-character substring.
five = string[0:5]
Offsets. This example shows the relation between the start and the end index. If you want a 3-character slice, add three to the start index (the offset).
Python program that uses offset
string = "abcdefgh"
# Three characters starting at index 2.
offset = 2
length = 3
sliced = string[offset:offset+length]
Omit start. Sometimes there is no start index in a slice. This simply means the slice starts at zero. So the zero is implicit, assumed, and we can omit it.
Python program that omits start index
value = "google"
# Omitting the start means start at 0.
test1 = value[:2]
test2 = value[0:2]
Negative values. A negative start begins the slice based on the last index (the end) not the first. Here we extract the last two characters of a string.
Python program that gets last two characters
value = "apple"
# Get last two characters.
end = value[-2:]
Item assignment error.
A string cannot be mutated. So we cannot use slice syntax to assign into an existing string. Instead, we create a new string—we can concatenate slices.
TypeError: This error is used for many problems in the Python language. It indicates invalid type usage. Try python, Errors.
Python program that causes error
value = "dotperls"
value = " net " # Does not work.
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "...\file.py", line 6, in <module>
value[3:] = " net "
TypeError: 'str' object does not support item assignment
Here we use a string slice to get the first words in a string. The first_words method counts spaces. When it reaches the requested number, it returns a slice of the string.
Result: When we use first_words, we extract the first words separated by spaces. A slice is used to take the substring.
Python program that uses slice, gets first words
def first_words(input, words):
for i in range(0, len(input)):
# Count spaces in the string.
if input[i] == ' ':
words -= 1
if words == 0:
# Return the slice up to this point.
# Test our method.
test = "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead."
result = first_words(test, 4)
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan
All possible substrings.
Suppose we want to get all possible substrings in a string. This can be used for some search algorithms—it lets us instantly test whether the substring is found.
Tip: We can place all possible substrings in a dictionary, and then do constant-time lookups to search a string.Dictionary
For: We use the for-range loop in Python to iterate through all lengths and start indexes in the source string.for
Python program that generates all possible substrings
test = "abcdefghi"
# Loop over possible lengths.
for length in range(1, len(test)):
# Loop over possible start indexes.
for start in range(0, len(test) - length + 1):
# Take substring and print it.
part = test[start:length + start]
The rightmost few characters of a string can be extracted. We use slice syntax for this too. But we begin with a negative index.String Right
A truncated string is the first part of a string. In Python we can specify a string slice with a starting index of 0. Or we can omit the 0.Truncate String
Sometimes we must use additional logic to get a slice. We can slice characters between two other strings with find and rfind.Between, Before, After
Substring method. Python offers full substring support. But you will find no "substring" method. With slice syntax, we specify substrings—this becomes natural after repetition.
Uniformity with arrays. In Python 3, arrays and strings are used in a uniform way. We index and slice them. We cannot however mutate string slices.
A review. With slices, we extract parts of strings. We can specify an optional start index and an optional last index (not a length). Offsets are useful.
© 2007-2019 Sam Allen. Every person is special and unique. Send bug reports to firstname.lastname@example.org.