I have a database of motorway junctions which are named like this:

  • M90 J8/A91/B996
  • M90 J1/A90/A921/A985(T)
  • M9 J1A

There is significant variability in the length of the strings but they all follow the same basic pattern of Motorway ID Junction Number / Link Road IDs

How do I extract everything before the first forward slash i.e. the Motorway ID and Junction Number?

I've been trying to use regex_substr based on other answers on here like this: regexp_substr( "NAME", '^(.+)/') but this extracts everything before the last forwardslash. How can I alter it to get the text before the first slash?


QGIS' regex engine doesn't support non greedy matches (yet), so it'll always return the longest possible match. Try

regexp_substr( "NAME", '^[^/]+')

That should return all characters from the start of the string which aren't /s.

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This turns out to be doable without using the regex_substr function. Instead the code

left( "Name", strpos( "Name" ,'/'))`

can be used instead. It works by identifying the string position of the first / and then extracting the text to the left of that position.

If anyone has any suggestions regarding regex_substr I'd still like to see them though.

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Not sure where in QGIS you want this feature work. If In the field calculator you may define a custom function based on the Python function split().

This image shows the basic definition of such a function. split('/')[0] always returns the text before the first occurrence of '/' or the complete string, if no '/' is found.

split function definition

You can use this new function like this:

usage of split function

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This happened when I was trying to extract tags in OSM-derived shapefiles. I'd like to extract English names, so I tried the following:


It returned a huge string after =>", which meant a greedy match.
However when I used the following regular expression:


It returned a lazy match.
Later when I was discovering Qt's Documentation (QGIS is based on Qt), I found that the greediness of quantifiers like ? can be inverted, which may be QGIS's case. Although it still needs to be proven by source code, it's still worth noticing that ? in QGIS may function like a "lazy mark".
Therefore, ^(.+?)\/ could be the answer, thanks to Nathan W. (The \/ actually means /, and \ is an escape character. )

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  • The answer by Aurus worked for me, using the +? limited the result to the fist word. I needed the first word prior to the first space so used, ^(.+?)\\s – Joel Jun 3 '19 at 22:26
  • For your information, if you want to work other_tags which is an HStore field, it's now natively managed by QGIS 3.4: map_get(htsore_to_map("other_tags"), 'name:en') – etrimaille Jun 4 '19 at 6:08
  • @etrimaille Thank you for a more efficient approach! – Aurus Huang Jun 19 '19 at 0:52

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