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Transact-SQL: LIKE

   

Introduction

The LIKE operator of Transact-SQL is used to with a wildcard to specify a pattern to select one or more records from a table or a view.

If you are visually creating the statement, in the Criteria pane, in the box corresponding to Filter for the column on which the condition would be applied, type the LIKE condition.

In Transact-SQL, the LIKE operator is used in a formula as follows:

Expression LIKE pattern

The Expression factor is the expression that will be evaluated. This must be a clear and valid expression.

The pattern factor can be a value to be found in Expression. For example, it can be the same type of value used in a WHERE statement. In this case, the equality operator would be the same as LIKE. For example

SELECT DateOfBirth, LastName, FirstName, 
       Gender, State, ParentsNames
FROM Students
WHERE State = N'VA';
GO

is equivalent to

SELECT DateOfBirth, LastName, FirstName, 
       Gender, State, ParentsNames
FROM Students
WHERE State LIKE N'VA';
GO

The idea of using a LIKE operator is to give an approximation of the type of result you want. There are wildcards to use with the LIKE operator.

LIKE Any Character %

If you want to match any character, in any combination, for any length, use the % wildcard. If you precede % with a letter, as in S%, the condition would consist of finding any string that starts with S. Imagine you want to get a list of students whose last names start with S. You would type the condition as LIKE 'S%'. To do this visually, in the Criteria pane, under the Filter column, type the condition. Here is an example:

LIKE

The SQL statement is this query is:

SELECT FirstName, LastName, Gender, SingleParentHome
FROM   Students
WHERE  LastName LIKE N'S%'

This would produce:

LIKE

You can negate this condition by preceding it with NOT. Here is an example:

SELECT FirstName, LastName, Gender, SingleParentHome
FROM   Students
WHERE  NOT (LastName LIKE N'S%')

This would produce:

LIKE

This time, the result is the list of students whose last names don't start with S.

       

When you precede the % character with a letter, only that letter would be considered. Alternatively, you can specify a group of characters that would precede the % symbol. For example, if you have some first names that start with Ch in a list but you don't remember the end of the name you are looking for, to create the list, you can specify that the first name would start with Ch and end with whatever. In this case, you would use Ch% as follows:

SELECT FirstName, LastName, Gender, SingleParentHome
FROM   Students
WHERE  LastName LIKE N'Ch%'

This would produce:

LIKE

Instead of ending a letter or a group of letters with %, you can begin the LIKE statement with %. An example would be LIKE N'%son'. In this case, all strings that end with son, such as Johnson or Colson, would be considered.

If you remember neither the beginning nor the end of a string you want to search for, but you know a sub-string that is probably included in the type of string you are looking for, you can precede it with % and end it with %. An example would be LIKE '%an%'. In this case, all strings that include "an" anywhere inside would be considered. Here is an example:

SELECT FirstName, LastName, Gender, SingleParentHome
FROM   Students
WHERE  LastName LIKE N'%an%'

This would produce:

LIKE

Like the other SQL statements, you can also negate this one using the NOT operator.

LIKE a Range of Characters []

The % wildcard is used to precede or succeed a specific character or a group of characters, that is, any character. If you want to consider only a range of characters from the alphabet, you can include the range in square brackets. To do this, type [, followed by the lowest character of the range, followed by -, followed by the highest character of the range, followed by ]. For example, to consider the range of letters between p and s, you would use '[p-s]'. Then, either to the left, to the right, or to both sides of this expression, type % to specify whether to include any character or combination of characters before or after the expression. Here is an example:

SELECT FirstName, LastName, Gender, SingleParentHome
FROM   Students
WHERE  LastName LIKE N'%[p-s]'

In the case, the result would be a list of students whose last names end with p, q, r, or s. This would produce:

LIKE

Notice that the list includes only the students whose last names end with a letter between p and s.

Not Ending With a Range of Characters

As opposed to considering the characters that are in a specific range, to specify a character or a range of characters that must NOT be considered, use the ^ character inside the square brackets but before the desired range. Here is an example:

SELECT FirstName, LastName, Gender, SingleParentHome
FROM   Students
WHERE  (LastName LIKE N'%[^p-r]')

The result would be a list of students whose last end with a letter other than p, q, r, or s.

Once again, remember that you can negate this expression by preceding it with NOT. Note that if you negate an expression that include ^, you would get the same result as not using ^.


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