**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: Extracting First and Last Words.

Reggie has a cell that contains three or more words. (The number of words could vary.) He needs a formula that allows him to extract either the first word of the cell or the last word of the cell. For instance, if the cell contains the phrase "Reggie was here in 2012", then he needs a formula to extract "Reggie" and one to extract "2012".

You can extract both words using formulas. Extracting the first word is relatively straightforward. All you need to do is find the location of the first space in the phrase, then extract whatever is to the left of it. If one presumes that the phrase is in A1, one can use the formula:

=LEFT(A1,FIND(" ",A1)-1)

In principle, to get the last word can be accomplished the same, it is just more complicated to find the last space in the string. A way to do this is to:

- Count the number of spaces
- Change the last space to a different character (which is not elsewhere in the phrase)
- Then find that "different character"
- Take the portion of the phrase to the right of that "different character"

The "different character" one can use is the first ASCII character (i.e., char(1)), which is non-printing and very unlikely to be in the phrase. The number of spaces can be found by taking the difference between the length of the phrase with the length of the phrase with no spaces (by using SUBSTITUTE to replace all spaces with the null string):

LEN(A1)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A1," ",""))

Then you can substitute char(1) for the last occurrence of the space:

SUBSTITUTE(A1," ",CHAR(1),LEN(A1)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A1," ","")))

You can then FIND the location of char(1) in that string:

FIND(CHAR(1),SUBSTITUTE(A1," ",CHAR(1),LEN(A1)- LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A1," ",""))))

The first character of the last word is 1 character past this:

1+ FIND(CHAR(1),SUBSTITUTE(A1," ",CHAR(1),LEN(A1)- LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A1," ",""))))

You can then use the MID function to extract the part of the string starting at this location until the end of the string. (You don't have to calculate the exact length. If you pick a number larger than the length of the last word, only the last word will be chosen. Thus, you can start at the location above and extract the number of characters in the string to ensure you have enough.):

=MID(A1,1+FIND(CHAR(1),SUBSTITUTE(A1," ",CHAR(1), LEN(A1)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A1," ","")))),LEN(A1))

You can also, if you prefer, create user-defined functions to grab the words you want. Grabbing the first word is easy:

Function FirstWord(c As String) Dim arr arr = Split(Trim(c), " ") FirstWord = arr(LBound(arr)) End Function

The function uses the Split function to pull apart whatever is in the specified cell, using the second parameter (" ") as the delimiter. Each element in the array (arr) then contains a portion of the original string. In this case what is being returned is the first element (specified by LBound) of the array—the first word.

Since the words from the phrase are being placed in an array, you can use just a slight variation on the function to return the last word:

Function LastWord(c As String) Dim arr arr = Split(Trim(c), " ") LastWord = arr(UBound(arr)) End Function

Note that, essentially, the only real change in the function is the use of UBound instead of LBound. The UBound function specifies the last element of the array. You can use both of these functions in a worksheet in this manner:

=FirstWord(A1) =LastWord(A1)

*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 (11984) 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: **Extracting First and Last Words**.

**Program Successfully in Excel!** John Walkenbach's name is synonymous with excellence in deciphering complex technical topics. With this comprehensive guide, "Mr. Spreadsheet" shows how to maximize your Excel experience using professional spreadsheet application development tips from his own personal bookshelf. Check out *Excel 2013 Power Programming with VBA* today!

Want to create a sequential pattern using formulas? It's easy to do if you take a look at how your data repeats. This tip ...

Discover MoreDo you ever have a need to return just a few digits out of a number? This tip shows different formulas you can use to ...

Discover MoreYou can easily use the COMBIN worksheet function to determine the number of combinations that can be made from a given ...

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

2015-09-19 05:26:31

Michael (Micky) Avidan

"^his son" are TWO(!) words - not one.

Please rephrase your request and give 1-2 more examples.

----------------------

Michael (Micky) Avidan

“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator

“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (2009-2016)

ISRAEL

2015-09-18 22:49:10

Dean

Example:

John Doe and ^his son to see the movies, but it was to late.

Results

^his son

Please note, I would like to keep the delimited value with the identified word.

Thanks

2014-09-09 11:45:08

Willy Vanhaelen

Of course the formulas has to start with =

2014-09-09 11:36:46

Willy Vanhaelen

Here is a tiny UDF that does it all:

Function nthWord(S As String, X As Integer) As String

nthWord = Split(S, " ")(X - 1)

End Function

You use it in this manner:

nthWord(A1,1) to get the first word

nthWord(A1,2) to get the second word

etc...

2014-09-07 07:22:45

Barry

It shows that that there are many ways the skin a problem, and a what a bit of lateral thinking can do.

The limitation of course is that the last word must be less than 255 characters in length. But as very few if any "real" words are this long I don't think it is a real problem.

2014-09-06 06:36:23

Michael (Micky) Avidan

To my opinion it has nothing to do with "programmer's perspective".

I can show you 1,000(!) times more complicated Array formulas that has also nothing to do with the term "Programmer".

Programming relates to writing VBA Codes.

I'm fully aware of what my suggested formula do and every Excel "novice" should "break", the formula, apart and examine its parts - nothing more.

...and yes - it should and can be considered as simple

2014-09-05 14:01:54

Neil Parker

The formula replaces every space in the trimmed original string with 255 spaces, then trims the rightmost 255 characters of the result.

2012-08-04 05:58:56

Michael Avidan

It can be accomplished very easily with a very short & simple formula:

=TRIM(RIGHT(SUBSTITUTE(TRIM(A1)," ",REPT(" ",255)),255))

Michael Avidan

“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel

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.

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

Copyright © 2019 Sharon Parq Associates, Inc.

## Comments