Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Finding the Nth Occurrence of a Character.

Finding the Nth Occurrence of a Character

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 19, 2018)

7

Barry often finds himself wanting to identify the Nth occurrence of a character within a text string. He knows he can use the SEARCH and FIND worksheet functions for finding an initial occurrence, but is unsure how to find, say, the 3rd occurrence of the letter "B" within a text string.

Actually, the SEARCH function could be used to find the desired occurrence, in the following manner:

=SEARCHB("b",G20,(SEARCHB("b",G20,(SEARCHB("b",G20,1)+1))+1))

Notice how the SEARCHB function is used in a nested manner. The formula specifies what is being searched for (the letter "b") and the number of nesting levels indicates which occurrence within the cell you want to find. The formula returns the position of the desired character within the cell.

The problem with such a formula, of course, is that it is difficult to maintain and can quickly get unusable if you want to find, say, the seventh occurrence.

A more flexible formula would be the following:

=FIND(CHAR(1),SUBSTITUTE(A1,"B",CHAR(1),3))

This formula examines the value in A1. It substitutes the CHAR(1) code for the third occurrence of "B" within the cell. The FIND function then looks within the resulting string for the position where CHAR(1) occurs. If the desired occurrence does not exist, then the formula returns a #VALUE error.

If you prefer, you could create a user-defined function that will look for the Nth position of a character. The following is a very simple macro that takes three arguments: the string to be searched, the text to match, and the position desired.

Function FindN(sFindWhat As String, _
  sInputString As String, N As Integer) As Integer
    Dim J As Integer

    Application.Volatile
    FindN = 0
    For J = 1 To N
        FindN = InStr(FindN + 1, sInputString, sFindWhat)
        If FindN = 0 Then Exit For
    Next
End Function

The function is case sensitive in what it searches for, and it returns the position within the specified string at which the sFindWhat value occurs. If there is no occurrence at the specified instance, then the function returns a 0. The following shows how the function can be used in a worksheet:

=FindN("b",C15,3)

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3324) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Finding the Nth Occurrence of a Character.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Changing the Color of a Cell Border

Excel provides a variety of tools you can use to make your data look more presentable on the screen and on a printout. ...

Discover More

Controlling the Behavior of the Mouse Wheel

The mouse wheel, by default, controls scrolling vertically through your worksheet. If you don't want the wheel to control ...

Discover More

Adding the Set Print Area Tool

Spend a lot of time defining print areas in your workbooks? You might benefit by adding a Set Print Area tool to the ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Adding a Missing Closing Bracket

When working with large amounts of data, it is a good idea to make sure that the data all consistently follows a pattern. ...

Discover More

Calculating the Distance between Points

Want to figure out how far it is between two points on the globe? If you know the points by latitude and longitude, you ...

Discover More

Changing the Reference in a Named Range

Define a named range today and you may want to change the definition at some future point. It's rather easy to do, as ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 5 + 3?

2017-08-15 03:16:33

Rick Rothstein

@Michael (Micky) Avidan,

That is the same formula that Allen Wyatt posted in his article except that he used CHAR(1) instead of "|" in order to guarantee he wouldn't accidentally trip over the replacement character within the text.


2017-08-14 21:32:18

sdfhuiu

You were the only person to actually answer this question on the internet


2016-08-22 19:42:23

Cesar

Hello,

I'm working with two large spread sheets that consist of account numbers that can have multiple duplicates. I want to retrieve the Codes that I'm doing a V-lookup on to show the many different type of services that were done. When I Google my request normally the formulas consist of one single tab with an array of no more than 10 to keep it simple. Can anybody give me an example of two different spread sheets and how to select the data in a vlookup format and or index to retrieve the value desired??


2016-04-17 19:38:19

Galan

As a note, =FIND(CHAR(1),SUBSTITUTE(A1,"B",CHAR(1),3))
in Google Sheets, this does not work for char's that are non-printable characters like char(1). I went with char(239) and that seems to work.


2016-04-02 06:17:53

Rick Rothstein

This much shorter UDF for your FindN function works in XL2003 (the earliest version I own) but I think should work in the earlier versions of Excel covered by this article as well...

Function FindN(sFindWhat As String, sInputString As String, N As Long) As Long
Application.Volatile
FindN = InStr(Replace(sInputString, sFindWhat, " ", 1, N - 1), sFindWhat)
End Function


2016-04-02 05:51:44

Michael (Micky) Avidan

...Sorry,
Didn't noticed the: =FIND(CHAR(1),SUBSTITUTE(A1,"B",CHAR(1),3))
formula.
--------------------------
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (2009-2016)
ISRAEL


2016-04-02 05:49:36

Michael (Micky) Avidan

@To whom it may concern,
There is a much shorter and simpler formula to identify the place of the 3rd occurrence of the letter "B":
=FIND("|",SUBSTITUTE(A1,"B","|",3))
--------------------------
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (2009-2016)
ISRAEL


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.