PostgreSQL substr() Function

PostgreSQL substr() Function

PostgreSQL, a robust, open-source object-relational database system, offers a plethora of features that make it a preferred choice for many developers and data analysts worldwide. Among these features, PostgreSQL’s string functions stand out for their ability to perform complex manipulations and analyses of text data. One such function is the substr() function, a powerful tool that allows users to extract specific characters from a string, providing precise control over text data. This article will delve into the substr() function, its syntax, usage, and best practices, providing a comprehensive guide for PostgreSQL users.

Understanding the Syntax of substr() Function

Before we dive into the practical applications of the substr() function, it‘s crucial to understand its syntax. The substr() function in PostgreSQL follows this structure:


In this syntax, <string> represents the string from which characters will be extracted. <position_from> is the starting position of the extraction from the string, and <number_of_characters> is the optional parameter that specifies the number of characters to be extracted from the string. If <number_of_characters> is not provided, the function will extract all characters from the <position_from> to the end of the string.

Basic Usage of substr() Function

To illustrate the basic usage of the substr() function, let’s consider a simple example. Suppose we have the string ‘w3resource’ and we want to extract three characters starting from the second position. We can achieve this using the following SQL command:

SELECT substr('w3resource',2,3) AS "Extracting characters";

Executing this command will return ‘3re’, which are the three characters starting from the second position of the string ‘w3resource’. This example demonstrates the substr() function’s ability to extract specific portions of a string, a feature that can be incredibly useful in various data manipulation tasks.

Advanced Usage of substr() Function

The substr() function’s utility extends beyond simple string manipulation. It can also be used with columns in a table, providing a powerful tool for data extraction and analysis. For instance, if we have a table named ’employees’ with columns ‘first_name’, ‘job_id’, and ‘salary’, and we want to display the ‘first_name’, ‘job_id’, and the extraction of three characters from the second position of ‘first_name’ for employees with a salary greater than 12000, we can use the following SQL command:

SELECT first_name,job_id, substr(first_name,2,3) AS "Extracting characters" FROM employees WHERE salary>12000;

Moreover, the substr() function can be used with regular expressions to extract a substring matching a specified POSIX regular expression, adding another layer of flexibility to this function.

It’s important to note that the substr() function in PostgreSQL is case-sensitive. This means that if you are searching for a specific pattern or substring, you must ensure that the case matches exactly. This case sensitivity can be a pitfall for users who are not aware of it, leading to unexpected results.

Common Mistakes and Best Practices

While the substr() function is a powerful tool, it should be used with caution. One common mistake is neglecting the case sensitivity of the function, which can lead to incorrect or incomplete data extraction. Always ensure that the case of the string and the pattern or substring you are searching for match exactly.

Another common mistake is using the substr() function without fully understanding its syntax and parameters. This can lead to unexpected results and errors. Always make sure you understand the function’s syntax and parameters before using it.

As a best practice, always test your queries thoroughly and double-check the results before using them in production. This can help you catch any errors or unexpected results early and prevent potential issues down the line.

Performance Considerations

The use of the substr() function can have an impact on query performance. Using the substr() function in the WHERE clause, for instance, can negatively affect performance as it forces PostgreSQL to perform a full table scan instead of using indexes. Therefore, it’s recommended to use this function judiciously and always test the performance of your queries.

To optimize the usage of the substr() function for better performance, consider using indexes on the columns you are querying, avoid using the substr() function in the WHERE clause if possible, and consider using other string functions or regular expressions if they can achieve the same result more efficiently.


The substr() function in PostgreSQL is a powerful tool for manipulating and analyzing text data. By understanding its syntax, usage, and potential pitfalls, you can use this function effectively in your PostgreSQL queries. Whether you’re cleaning data, transforming text, or extracting features, the substr() function is a valuable addition to your PostgreSQL toolkit. As with any tool, it’s important to use it wisely and efficiently, always keeping in mind the impact on performance and the potential for errors. With careful use and thorough testing, the substr() function can be a powerful ally in your data manipulation tasks.


r00t is a seasoned Linux system administrator with a wealth of experience in the field. Known for his contributions to, r00t has authored numerous tutorials and guides, helping users navigate the complexities of Linux systems. His expertise spans across various Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, CentOS, and Debian. r00t's work is characterized by his ability to simplify complex concepts, making Linux more accessible to users of all skill levels. His dedication to the Linux community and his commitment to sharing knowledge makes him a respected figure in the field.
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