SQL LIKE Operator with Examples – Using Wildcards

This operator can find string of text based on a certain pattern. It is most usually used in clause WHERE. But it can be applied in any part of SQL query, for example in SELECT, UPDATE or DELETE. T-SQL LIKE has the following syntax:


SELECT <Column 1>
FROM dbo.Table
WHERE <Column 1> LIKE <patern>;

Operator can be used to apply negatively restricted requirements. We would use NOT LIKE in this case but the principle is still the same.

Wildcards Used in LIKE Operator

Operator enables application of multiple wildcards that make us able to create text patterns.

1 Percent (wildcard %) – any text including empty text. The syntax to search for a pattern that begins with the character “D” would be as follows:

SELECT <Column 1>
FROM dbo.Table
WHERE <Column 1> LIKE 'D%';

2 Underscore (wildcard_) – Wildcard represents 1 character. We can represent any number of characters (use underscore multiple times and obviously combine with “%”). As an example – we want all values having letter X as its third letter. Every of 2 previous and n following characters can be arbitrary.

SELECT <Column 1>
FROM dbo.Table
WHERE <Column 1> LIKE '__D%';

3 List of characters [wildcard <list>] – If we would use previous step as an example except that we would want the 3rd character to be D or E, it would look like this:

SELECT <Column 1>
FROM dbo.Table
WHERE <Column 1> LIKE '__[DE]%';

4 Character range [wildcard <char>-<char>] – Wildcard of range type is separated by a dash. It can be used for numbers as for text characters. Below, you can see script syntax where we want first character to be a number, fourth character to be D and following characters to be arbitrary:

SELECT <Column 1>
FROM dbo.Table
WHERE <Column 1> LIKE '[0-9]__[D]%';

Conclusion: This tutorial describes how to use LIKE operator to find text string in sql that would adhere to some pattern. Patterns are searched for using WILDCARDS representative characters

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Category: SQL Operators

About Ing. Jan Zedníček - BI Developer, Finance controller

My name is Jan Zedníček and I work as a BI Developer at Kentico Software in Brno. Mostly you can see me there working in the office, but I also work partly as a freelancer. I have been working as a freelancer for many companies for more than 5 years, but Kentico is the matter of my heart. I used to work as a financial controller at companies like Aero Vodochody, banking and I also used to be a bond program manager in Unicapital Investment group. When I am not at work, I like playing volleyball, chess, doing a workout in the gym and I enjoy tasting of best quality rums. I am trying to summarize all my knowledge on this website not to forget them (because of the rum effect, you know =) and to put them forward to anyone. Don´t worry about asking for help or writing some comments.

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