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Substring() In JavaScript - How to extract part of a string?

Tim Mouskhelichvili
Tim Mouskhelichvili
4 minutes to read

In JavaScript, to extract part of a string, you need to use the substring() function, or one of its alternatives.

You may know the substring() function, but do you know everything about it?

In this article, you will find all the information needed, from the definition to the difference between substring(), slice(), and substr().

Also, I will provide valuable examples for some of the most common use cases that you may encounter while developing your next hit application.

Substring() In JavaScript - How to extract part of a string?

Definition

The substring() function is used to extract a substring between the start and the end positions.

Here is the substring() function syntax.

str.substring(start[, end]);

There are 3 different ways to call the substring() function:

1. When you specify both the start and end parameters.

javascriptconst str = "This is a very long string!";

// This will return => "This i"
console.log(str.substring(0, 6));

It will return a new substring, in this case: "This i".

2. When you specify the start but omit the end parameter.

javascriptconst str = "This is a very long string!";

// This will return => "s a very long string!"
console.log(str.substring(6));

It will return a new substring from index 6, in this case: "s a very long string!".

3. When you specify a negative start position.

javascriptconst str = "This is a very long string!";

// This will return => "This i"
console.log(str.substring(-2, 6));

This will give the same result as when the start parameter is ZERO.

If the start or the end parameter is negative, it will be treated as ZERO.

JavaScript Substring

1. Parameters

ParametersNecessityDescription
startRequiredThe start position.
endOptionalThe end position.
  1. The start index is 0.
  2. If no end parameter is provided => the end parameter will default to the rest of the string.
  3. If the start parameter is greater than the end parameter, the function will swap both arguments.
  4. If any argument is negative or is NaN, it will be treated as ZERO.

2. Return Value

The substring method will return a new string containing part of the given string.

Browser Support

The substring() function works on all browsers. 🥳

BrowserSupport
ChromeYES ✅
FirefoxYES ✅
OperaYES ✅
SafariYES ✅
EdgeYES ✅
Internet ExplorerYES ✅

Examples

Here, I've compiled a list of some common use cases for the substring() method.

1. How to get a substring before a specified character?

You can get a substring before a specified character using the substring() and indexOf() functions.

javascriptconst str = "This is a, very long string!";

// This will return => "This is a"
console.log(str.substring(0, str.indexOf(',')));

In this case, it will return: "This is a".

2. How to get a substring between two characters?

You can get a substring between two characters by using the substring() and the indexOf() functions and you concatenate the result to the lastIndexOf() function.

javascriptconst str = "This is a, very long string!";

// This will return => " very long string"
console.log(str.substring(
    str.indexOf(",") + 1, 
    str.lastIndexOf("!")
));

In this case, it will return: " very long string".

JavaScript Substring

3. How to get the first character?

You can get the first character of a string by using the substring() function with 0 as the start position and 1 as the end position.

javascriptconst str = "This is a, very long string!";

// This will return => "T"
console.log(str.substring(0, 1));

In this case, it will return: "T".

4. How to get the last character of a string?

You can get the last character of a string by using the substring() function with the length of the string minus 1 as the start position.

javascriptconst str = "This is a, very long string!";

// This will return => "!"
console.log(str.substring(str.length - 1));

In this case, it will return: "!".

The difference between substring() and substr()

Those two methods are nearly identical (even their names are very similar), so a lot of people (including me), get confused between them.

The biggest differences between those functions are:

1. The second parameter

For the substring() method the parameters are: start position AND end position.

For the substr() method the parameters are: start position AND length.

javascriptconst str = "This is a, very long string!";

// This will return => "is"
console.log(str.substring(2, 4));
// This will return => "is i"
console.log(str.substr(2, 4));

2. Negative values

Another difference to know is when the first argument is negative, substr() will read from the end of the string. The substring() function will treat the negative value as ZERO.

javascriptconst str = "This is a, very long string!";

// This will return => "This"
console.log(str.substring(-2, 4));
// This will return => "g!"
console.log(str.substr(-2, 4));

The substr() function is considered deprecated, so if you see it in your code replace it.

JavaScript Substring

The difference between substring() and slice()

The biggest differences between those functions are:

1. Negative Values

The slice() function will read from the end of the string when the first parameter is negative.

The substring() function will transform the negative value into a ZERO.

javascriptconst str = "This is a, very long string!";

// This will return => "This"
console.log(str.substring(-2, 4));
// This will return => "g!"
console.log(str.slice(-2));

2. Parameter Consistency

When the first parameter is greater than the second parameter, the slice() function will return an empty string.

When the first parameter is greater than the second parameter, the substring() function will swap those two parameters.

javascriptconst str = "This is a, very long string!";

// This will return => "This i"
console.log(str.substring(6, 0));
// This will return => ""
console.log(str.slice(6, 0));

substring() vs substr() vs slice()

Here is a table with all the differences.

substring()substr()slice()
ParametersStartPosition, EndPositionStartPosition, LengthStartPosition, EndPosition
Negative ValuesTransforms to ZEROReads from the endReads from the end
1st parameter greater than 2ndWill swap parametersWill return an empty stringWill return an empty string
DeprecatedNOYESNO

Do not forget that the substr() function is deprecated.

JavaScript Substr

Final Thoughts

The substring() and slice() functions offer the developer two different methods of getting part of a string, and now you know which to use and when.

As for substr(), it's deprecated don't use it.

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