Python Substring Examples

Use slices on strings to take substrings. Slice syntax works as a substring method.

Substring. In Python we use slice syntax to get parts of existing strings—we can extract words from 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.

An example. 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]) 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]) Output 2 c 2 cd 2 cde 2 ce 2 ceg 3 d 3 de 3 def 3 df 3 dfh

One character. 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. print(char) # Test substring. if char == "w": print(True) Output w True e b

Lengths. 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] print(two) print(three) print(four) print(five) Output ab abc abcd abcde

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] print(sliced) Output cde

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 = "rainy day" # Omitting the start means start at 0. test = value[:2] print("OMIT START:", test) test = value[0:2] print("START AT 0:", test) Output OMIT START: ra START AT 0: ra

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:] print(end) Output le

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[3] = " net " # Does not work. print(value) Output Traceback (most recent call last): File "...\", line 6, in <module> value[3:] = " net " TypeError: 'str' object does not support item assignment

First words. 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. return input[0:i] return "" # Test our method. test = "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead." result = first_words(test, 4) print(result) Output 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.


For: We use the for-range loop in Python to iterate through all lengths and start indexes in the source string.

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] print(part) Output a b c d e f g h i ab bc cd de ef fg gh hi abc bcd cde def efg fgh ghi abcd bcde cdef defg efgh fghi abcde bcdef cdefg defgh efghi abcdef bcdefg cdefgh defghi abcdefg bcdefgh cdefghi abcdefgh bcdefghi

Right. 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

Truncate. 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

Between. 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.Strings
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