Oracle SUBSTR Function – SQL Syntax Examples

The Oracle SUBSTR SQL Function is very common, and many times misused.

Below shows the SUBSTR function along with the arguments it takes:

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substr(string, POSITION)
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substr(string, POSITION, substring_length)

The Oracle SUBSTR function returns a portion of string, beginning at character position, substring_length characters long.

Following are important rules to follow along with syntax exemplifying the implications of the rules.

  1. The first character of string is at position 1. If position is 0, then it is treated as 1.
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    SELECT substr('abcd',1) FROM dual
    --returns: abcd
     
    SELECT substr('abcd',0) FROM dual
    --returns: abcd
  2. If position is positive, then Oracle Database counts from the beginning of string to find the first character; if position is negative, then Oracle counts backward from the end of string.
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    SELECT substr('abcd',2) FROM dual
    --returns: bcd
     
    SELECT substr('abcd',-2) FROM dual
    --returns: cd
  3. If substring_length is omitted, then Oracle returns all characters to the end of string. If substring_length is less than 1, then Oracle returns null.
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    SELECT substr('abcd',2) FROM dual
    --returns: bcd
     
    SELECT substr('abcd',2,1) FROM dual
    --returns: b
     
    SELECT substr('abcd',2,0) FROM dual
    --returns: [null]

string can be any of the datatypes CHAR, VARCHAR2, NCHAR, NVARCHAR2, CLOB, or NCLOB. Both position and substring_length must be of datatype NUMBER, or any datatype that can be implicitly converted to NUMBER, and must resolve to an integer. The return value is the same datatype as string.

SUBSTR is most powerful and often used in practice with the Oracle INSTR SQL function. Here are some examples of how to combine SUBSTR with INSTR.

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