C++ std::string


Strings are objects that represent sequences of characters. The standard string class provides a simple, safe and versatile alternative to using explicit arrays of chars when dealing with text and other sequences of characters. The C++ string class is part of the std namespace and was standardized in 1998.


  • // Empty string declaration

    std::string s;

  • // Constructing from const char* (c-string)

    std::string s("Hello");

    std::string s = "Hello";

  • // Constructing using copy constructor

    std::string s1("Hello");

    std::string s2(s1);

  • // Constructing from substring

    std::string s1("Hello");

    std::string s2(s1, 0, 4); // Copy 4 characters from position 0 of s1 into s2

  • // Constructing from a buffer of characters

    std::string s1("Hello World");
    std::string s2(s1, 5); // Copy first 5 characters of s1 into s2

  • // Construct using fill constructor (char only)

    std::string s(5, 'a'); // s contains aaaaa

  • // Construct using range constructor and iterator

    std::string s1("Hello World");

    std::string s2(s1.begin(), s1.begin()+5); // Copy first 5 characters of s1 into s2


Before using std::string, you should include the header string, as it includes functions/operators/overloads that other headers (for example iostream) do not include.

Using const char* constructor with a nullptr leads to undefined behavior.

std::string oops(nullptr);
std::cout << oops << "\n";

The method at throws an std::out_of_range exception if index >= size().

The behavior of operator[] is a bit more complicated, in all cases it has undefined behavior if index > size(), but when index == size():

  1. On a non-const string, the behavior is undefined;
  2. On a const string, a reference to a character with value CharT() (the null character) is returned.
  1. A reference to a character with value CharT() (the null character) is returned.
  2. Modifying this reference is undefined behavior.

Since C++14, instead of using "foo", it is recommended to use "foo"s, as s is a user-defined literal suffix, which converts the const char* "foo" to std::string "foo".

Note: you have to use the namespace std::string_literals or std::literals to get the literal s.


Use std::string::substr to split a string. There are two variants of this member function.

The first takes a starting position from which the returned substring should begin. The starting position must be valid in the range (0, str.length()]:

std::string str = "Hello foo, bar and world!";
std::string newstr = str.substr(11); // "bar and world!"

The second takes a starting position and a total length of the new substring. Regardless of the length, the substring will never go past the end of the source string:

std::string str = "Hello foo, bar and world!";
std::string newstr = str.substr(15, 3); // "and"

Note that you can also call substr with no arguments, in this case an exact copy of the string is returned

std::string str = "Hello foo, bar and world!";
std::string newstr = str.substr(); // "Hello foo, bar and world!"

String replacement

Replace by position

To replace a portion of a std::string you can use the method replace from std::string.

replace has a lot of useful overloads:

//Define string
std::string str = "Hello foo, bar and world!";
std::string alternate = "Hello foobar";

str.replace(6, 3, "bar"); //"Hello bar, bar and world!"

str.replace(str.begin() + 6, str.end(), "nobody!"); //"Hello nobody!"

str.replace(19, 5, alternate, 6, 6); //"Hello foo, bar and foobar!"
str.replace(19, 5, alternate, 6); //"Hello foo, bar and foobar!"
str.replace(str.begin(), str.begin() + 5, str.begin() + 6, str.begin() + 9);
//"foo foo, bar and world!"

str.replace(0, 5, 3, 'z'); //"zzz foo, bar and world!"

str.replace(str.begin() + 6, str.begin() + 9, 3, 'x'); //"Hello xxx, bar and world!"
str.replace(str.begin(), str.begin() + 5, { 'x', 'y', 'z' }); //"xyz foo, bar and world!"

Replace occurrences of a string with another string

Replace only the first occurrence of replace with with in str:

std::string replaceString(std::string str,
                          const std::string& replace,
                          const std::string& with){
    std::size_t pos = str.find(replace);
    if (pos != std::string::npos)
        str.replace(pos, replace.length(), with);
    return str;

Replace all occurrence of replace with with in str:

std::string replaceStringAll(std::string str,
                             const std::string& replace,
                             const std::string& with) {
    if(!replace.empty()) {
        std::size_t pos = 0;
        while ((pos = str.find(replace, pos)) != std::string::npos) {
            str.replace(pos, replace.length(), with);
            pos += with.length();
    return str;


You can concatenate std::strings using the overloaded + and += operators. Using the + operator:

std::string hello = "Hello";
std::string world = "world";
std::string helloworld = hello + world; // "Helloworld"

Using the += operator:

std::string hello = "Hello";
std::string world = "world";
hello += world; // "Helloworld"

You can also append C strings, including string literals:

std::string hello = "Hello";
std::string world = "world";
const char *comma = ", ";
std::string newhelloworld = hello + comma + world + "!"; // "Hello, world!"

You can also use push_back() to push back individual chars:

std::string s = "a, b, ";
s.push_back('c'); // "a, b, c"

There is also append(), which is pretty much like +=:

std::string app = "test and ";
app.append("test"); // "test and test"

Accessing a character

There are several ways to extract characters from a std::string and each is subtly different.

std::string str("Hello world!");


Returns a reference to the character at index n.

std::string::operator[] is not bounds-checked and does not throw an exception. The caller is responsible for asserting that the index is within the range of the string:

char c = str[6]; // 'w'


Returns a reference to the character at index n.

std::string::at is bounds checked, and will throw std::out_of_range if the index is not within the range of the string:

char c = str.at(7); // 'o'

Note: Both of these examples will result in undefined behavior if the string is empty.


Returns a reference to the first character:

char c = str.front(); // 'H'


Returns a reference to the last character:

char c = str.back(); // '!'


Listed from least expensive to most expensive at run-time:

  1. str::strtok is the cheapest standard provided tokenization method, it also allows the delimiter to be modified between tokens, but it incurs 3 difficulties with modern C++:

    • std::strtok cannot be used on multiple strings at the same time (though some implementations do extend to support this, such as: strtok_s)
    • For the same reason std::strtok cannot be used on multiple threads simultaneously (this may however be implementation defined, for example: Visual Studio's implementation is thread safe)
    • Calling std::strtok modifies the std::string it is operating on, so it cannot be used on const strings, const char*s, or literal strings, to tokenize any of these with std::strtok or to operate on a std::string who's contents need to be preserved, the input would have to be copied, then the copy could be operated on

    Generally any of these options cost will be hidden in the allocation cost of the tokens, but if the cheapest algorithm is required and std::strtok's difficulties are not overcomable consider a hand-spun solution.

// String to tokenize
std::string str{ "The quick brown fox" };
// Vector to store tokens
vector<std::string> tokens;

for (auto i = strtok(&str[0], " "); i != NULL; i = strtok(NULL, " "))

Live Example

  1. The std::istream_iterator uses the stream's extraction operator iteratively. If the input std::string is white-space delimited this is able to expand on the std::strtok option by eliminating its difficulties, allowing inline tokenization thereby supporting the generation of a const vector<string>, and by adding support for multiple delimiting white-space character:
// String to tokenize
const std::string str("The  quick \tbrown \nfox");
std::istringstream is(str);
// Vector to store tokens
const std::vector<std::string> tokens = std::vector<std::string>(

Live Example

  1. The std::regex_token_iterator uses a std::regex to iteratively tokenize. It provides for a more flexible delimiter definition. For example, non-delimited commas and white-space:
// String to tokenize
const std::string str{ "The ,qu\\,ick ,\tbrown, fox" };
const std::regex re{ "\\s*((?:[^\\\\,]|\\\\.)*?)\\s*(?:,|$)" };
// Vector to store tokens
const std::vector<std::string> tokens{ 
    std::sregex_token_iterator(str.begin(), str.end(), re, 1), 

Live Example

See the regex_token_iterator Example for more details.

Conversion to (const) char*

In order to get const char* access to the data of a std::string you can use the string's c_str() member function. Keep in mind that the pointer is only valid as long as the std::string object is within scope and remains unchanged, that means that only const methods may be called on the object.


The data() member function can be used to obtain a modifiable char*, which can be used to manipulate the std::string object's data.


A modifiable char* can also be obtained by taking the address of the first character: &s[0]. Within C++11, this is guaranteed to yield a well-formed, null-terminated string. Note that &s[0] is well-formed even if s is empty, whereas &s.front() is undefined if s is empty.

std::string str("This is a string.");
const char* cstr = str.c_str(); // cstr points to: "This is a string.\0"
const char* data = str.data();  // data points to: "This is a string.\0"
std::string str("This is a string.");

// Copy the contents of str to untie lifetime from the std::string object
std::unique_ptr<char []> cstr = std::make_unique<char[]>(str.size() + 1);

// Alternative to the line above (no exception safety):
// char* cstr_unsafe = new char[str.size() + 1];

std::copy(str.data(), str.data() + str.size(), cstr);
cstr[str.size()] = '\0'; // A null-terminator needs to be added

// delete[] cstr_unsafe;
std::cout << cstr.get();

Finding character(s) in a string

To find a character or another string, you can use std::string::find. It returns the position of the first character of the first match. If no matches were found, the function returns std::string::npos

std::string str = "Curiosity killed the cat";
auto it = str.find("cat");

if (it != std::string::npos)
    std::cout << "Found at position: " << it << '\n';
    std::cout << "Not found!\n";

Found at position: 21

The search opportunities are further expanded by the following functions:

find_first_of     // Find first occurrence of characters 
find_first_not_of // Find first absence of characters 
find_last_of      // Find last occurrence of characters 
find_last_not_of  // Find last absence of characters 

These functions can allow you to search for characters from the end of the string, as well as find the negative case (ie. characters that are not in the string). Here is an example:

std::string str = "dog dog cat cat";
std::cout << "Found at position: " << str.find_last_of("gzx") << '\n';

Found at position: 6

Note: Be aware that the above functions do not search for substrings, but rather for characters contained in the search string. In this case, the last occurrence of 'g' was found at position 6 (the other characters weren't found).

Trimming characters at start/end

This example requires the headers <algorithm>, <locale>, and <utility>.


To trim a sequence or string means to remove all leading and trailing elements (or characters) matching a certain predicate. We first trim the trailing elements, because it doesn't involve moving any elements, and then trim the leading elements. Note that the generalizations below work for all types of std::basic_string (e.g. std::string and std::wstring), and accidentally also for sequence containers (e.g. std::vector and std::list).

template <typename Sequence, // any basic_string, vector, list etc.
          typename Pred>     // a predicate on the element (character) type
Sequence& trim(Sequence& seq, Pred pred) {
    return trim_start(trim_end(seq, pred), pred);

Trimming the trailing elements involves finding the last element not matching the predicate, and erasing from there on:

template <typename Sequence, typename Pred>
Sequence& trim_end(Sequence& seq, Pred pred) {
    auto last = std::find_if_not(seq.rbegin(),
    seq.erase(last.base(), seq.end());
    return seq;

Trimming the leading elements involves finding the first element not matching the predicate and erasing up to there:

template <typename Sequence, typename Pred>
Sequence& trim_start(Sequence& seq, Pred pred) {
    auto first = std::find_if_not(seq.begin(),
    seq.erase(seq.begin(), first);
    return seq;

To specialize the above for trimming whitespace in a std::string we can use the std::isspace() function as a predicate:

std::string& trim(std::string& str, const std::locale& loc = std::locale()) {
    return trim(str, [&loc](const char c){ return std::isspace(c, loc); });

std::string& trim_start(std::string& str, const std::locale& loc = std::locale()) {
    return trim_start(str, [&loc](const char c){ return std::isspace(c, loc); });

std::string& trim_end(std::string& str, const std::locale& loc = std::locale()) {
    return trim_end(str, [&loc](const char c){ return std::isspace(c, loc); });

Similarly, we can use the std::iswspace() function for std::wstring etc.

If you wish to create a new sequence that is a trimmed copy, then you can use a separate function:

template <typename Sequence, typename Pred>
Sequence trim_copy(Sequence seq, Pred pred) { // NOTE: passing seq by value
    trim(seq, pred);
    return seq;

Lexicographical comparison

Two std::strings can be compared lexicographically using the operators ==, !=, <, <=, >, and >=:

std::string str1 = "Foo";
std::string str2 = "Bar";

assert(!(str1 < str2));
assert(str > str2);
assert(!(str1 <= str2));
assert(str1 >= str2);
assert(!(str1 == str2));
assert(str1 != str2);

All these functions use the underlying std::string::compare() method to perform the comparison, and return for convenience boolean values. The operation of these functions may be interpreted as follows, regardless of the actual implementation:

  • operator==:

    If str1.length() == str2.length() and each character pair matches, then returns true, otherwise returns false.

  • operator!=:

    If str1.length() != str2.length() or one character pair doesn't match, returns true, otherwise it returns false.

  • operator< or operator>:

    Finds the first different character pair, compares them then returns the boolean result.

  • operator<= or operator>=:

    Finds the first different character pair, compares them then returns the boolean result.

Note: The term character pair means the corresponding characters in both strings of the same positions. For better understanding, if two example strings are str1 and str2, and their lengths are n and m respectively, then character pairs of both strings means each str1[i] and str2[i] pairs where i = 0, 1, 2, ..., max(n,m). If for any i where the corresponding character does not exist, that is, when i is greater than or equal to n or m, it would be considered as the lowest value.

Here is an example of using <:

std::string str1 = "Barr";
std::string str2 = "Bar";

assert(str2 < str1);

The steps are as follows:

  1. Compare the first characters, 'B' == 'B' - move on.
  2. Compare the second characters, 'a' == 'a' - move on.
  3. Compare the third characters, 'r' == 'r' - move on.
  4. The str2 range is now exhausted, while the str1 range still has characters. Thus, str2 < str1.

Conversion to std::wstring

In C++, sequences of characters are represented by specializing the std::basic_string class with a native character type. The two major collections defined by the standard library are std::string and std::wstring:

  • std::string is built with elements of type char

  • std::wstring is built with elements of type wchar_t

To convert between the two types, use wstring_convert:

#include <string>
#include <codecvt>
#include <locale>

std::string input_str = "this is a -string-, which is a sequence based on the -char- type.";
std::wstring input_wstr = L"this is a -wide- string, which is based on the -wchar_t- type.";

// conversion
std::wstring str_turned_to_wstr = std::wstring_convert<std::codecvt_utf8<wchar_t>>().from_bytes(input_str);

std::string wstr_turned_to_str = std::wstring_convert<std::codecvt_utf8<wchar_t>>().to_bytes(input_wstr);

In order to improve usability and/or readability, you can define functions to perform the conversion:

#include <string>
#include <codecvt>
#include <locale>

using convert_t = std::codecvt_utf8<wchar_t>;
std::wstring_convert<convert_t, wchar_t> strconverter;

std::string to_string(std::wstring wstr)
    return strconverter.to_bytes(wstr);

std::wstring to_wstring(std::string str)
    return strconverter.from_bytes(str);

Sample usage:

std::wstring a_wide_string = to_wstring("Hello World!");

That's certainly more readable than std::wstring_convert<std::codecvt_utf8<wchar_t>>().from_bytes("Hello World!").

Please note that char and wchar_t do not imply encoding, and gives no indication of size in bytes. For instance, wchar_t is commonly implemented as a 2-bytes data type and typically contains UTF-16 encoded data under Windows (or UCS-2 in versions prior to Windows 2000) and as a 4-bytes data type encoded using UTF-32 under Linux. This is in contrast with the newer types char16_t and char32_t, which were introduced in C++11 and are guaranteed to be large enough to hold any UTF16 or UTF32 "character" (or more precisely, code point) respectively.

Using the std::string_view class


C++17 introduces std::string_view, which is simply a non-owning range of const chars, implementable as either a pair of pointers or a pointer and a length. It is a superior parameter type for functions that requires non-modifiable string data. Before C++17, there were three options for this:

void foo(std::string const& s);      // pre-C++17, single argument, could incur
                                     // allocation if caller's data was not in a string
                                     // (e.g. string literal or vector<char> )

void foo(const char* s, size_t len); // pre-C++17, two arguments, have to pass them
                                     // both everywhere

void foo(const char* s);             // pre-C++17, single argument, but need to call
                                     // strlen()

template <class StringT>
void foo(StringT const& s);          // pre-C++17, caller can pass arbitrary char data
                                     // provider, but now foo() has to live in a header

All of these can be replaced with:

void foo(std::string_view s);        // post-C++17, single argument, tighter coupling
                                     // zero copies regardless of how caller is storing
                                     // the data

Note that std::string_view cannot modify its underlying data.

string_view is useful when you want to avoid unnecessary copies.

It offers a useful subset of the functionality that std::string does, although some of the functions behave differently:

std::string str = "lllloooonnnngggg sssstttrrriiinnnggg"; //A really long string

//Bad way - 'string::substr' returns a new string (expensive if the string is long)
std::cout << str.substr(15, 10) << '\n';

//Good way - No copies are created!
std::string_view view = str;

// string_view::substr returns a new string_view
std::cout << view.substr(15, 10) << '\n';

Looping through each character


std::string supports iterators, and so you can use a ranged based loop to iterate through each character:

std::string str = "Hello World!";
for (auto c : str)
    std::cout << c;

You can use a "traditional" for loop to loop through every character:

std::string str = "Hello World!";
for (std::size_t i = 0; i < str.length(); ++i)
    std::cout << str[i];

Conversion to integers/floating point types

A std::string containing a number can be converted into an integer type, or a floating point type, using conversion functions.

Note that all of these functions stop parsing the input string as soon as they encounter a non-numeric character, so "123abc" will be converted into 123.

The std::ato* family of functions converts C-style strings (character arrays) to integer or floating-point types:

std::string ten = "10";

double num1 = std::atof(ten.c_str());
int num2 = std::atoi(ten.c_str());
long num3 = std::atol(ten.c_str());
long long num4 = std::atoll(ten.c_str());

However, use of these functions is discouraged because they return 0 if they fail to parse the string. This is bad because 0 could also be a valid result, if for example the input string was "0", so it is impossible to determine if the conversion actually failed.

The newer std::sto* family of functions convert std::strings to integer or floating-point types, and throw exceptions if they could not parse their input. You should use these functions if possible:

std::string ten = "10";

int num1 = std::stoi(ten);
long num2 = std::stol(ten);
long long num3 = std::stoll(ten);

float num4 = std::stof(ten);
double num5 = std::stod(ten);
long double num6 = std::stold(ten);

Furthermore, these functions also handle octal and hex strings unlike the std::ato* family. The second parameter is a pointer to the first unconverted character in the input string (not illustrated here), and the third parameter is the base to use. 0 is automatic detection of octal (starting with 0) and hex (starting with 0x or 0X), and any other value is the base to use

std::string ten = "10";
std::string ten_octal = "12";
std::string ten_hex = "0xA";

int num1 = std::stoi(ten, 0, 2); // Returns 2
int num2 = std::stoi(ten_octal, 0, 8); // Returns 10
long num3 = std::stol(ten_hex, 0, 16);  // Returns 10
long num4 = std::stol(ten_hex);  // Returns 0
long num5 = std::stol(ten_hex, 0, 0); // Returns 10 as it detects the leading 0x

Converting between character encodings

Converting between encodings is easy with C++11 and most compilers are able to deal with it in a cross-platform manner through <codecvt> and <locale> headers.

#include <iostream>
#include <codecvt>
#include <locale>
#include <string>
using namespace std;

int main() {
    // converts between wstring and utf8 string
    wstring_convert<codecvt_utf8_utf16<wchar_t>> wchar_to_utf8;
    // converts between u16string and utf8 string
    wstring_convert<codecvt_utf8_utf16<char16_t>, char16_t> utf16_to_utf8;
    wstring wstr = L"foobar";
    string utf8str = wchar_to_utf8.to_bytes(wstr);
    wstring wstr2 = wchar_to_utf8.from_bytes(utf8str);
    wcout << wstr << endl;
    cout << utf8str << endl;
    wcout << wstr2 << endl;
    u16string u16str = u"foobar";
    string utf8str2 = utf16_to_utf8.to_bytes(u16str);
    u16string u16str2 = utf16_to_utf8.from_bytes(utf8str2);
    return 0;

Mind that Visual Studio 2015 provides supports for these conversion but a bug in their library implementation requires to use a different template for wstring_convert when dealing with char16_t:

using utf16_char = unsigned short;
wstring_convert<codecvt_utf8_utf16<utf16_char>, utf16_char> conv_utf8_utf16;

void strings::utf16_to_utf8(const std::u16string& utf16, std::string& utf8)
  std::basic_string<utf16_char> tmp;
  std::copy(utf16.begin(), utf16.end(), tmp.begin());
  utf8 = conv_utf8_utf16.to_bytes(tmp);
void strings::utf8_to_utf16(const std::string& utf8, std::u16string& utf16)
  std::basic_string<utf16_char> tmp = conv_utf8_utf16.from_bytes(utf8);
  std::copy(tmp.begin(), tmp.end(), utf16.begin());

Checking if a string is a prefix of another


In C++14, this is easily done by std::mismatch which returns the first mismatching pair from two ranges:

std::string prefix = "foo";
std::string string = "foobar";

bool isPrefix = std::mismatch(prefix.begin(), prefix.end(),
    string.begin(), string.end()).first == prefix.end();

Note that a range-and-a-half version of mismatch() existed prior to C++14, but this is unsafe in the case that the second string is the shorter of the two.


We can still use the range-and-a-half version of std::mismatch(), but we need to first check that the first string is at most as big as the second:

bool isPrefix = prefix.size() <= string.size() &&
    std::mismatch(prefix.begin(), prefix.end(),
        string.begin(), string.end()).first == prefix.end();

With std::string_view, we can write the direct comparison we want without having to worry about allocation overhead or making copies:

bool isPrefix(std::string_view prefix, std::string_view full)
    return prefix == full.substr(0, prefix.size());

Converting to std::string

std::ostringstream can be used to convert any streamable type to a string representation, by inserting the object into a std::ostringstream object (with the stream insertion operator <<) and then converting the whole std::ostringstream to a std::string.

For int for instance:

#include <sstream>

int main()
    int val = 4;
    std::ostringstream str;
    str << val;
    std::string converted = str.str();
    return 0;

Writing your own conversion function, the simple:

template<class T>
std::string toString(const T& x)
  std::ostringstream ss;
  ss << x;
  return ss.str();

works but isn't suitable for performance critical code.

User-defined classes may implement the stream insertion operator if desired:

std::ostream operator<<( std::ostream& out, const A& a )
    // write a string representation of a to out
    return out; 

Aside from streams, since C++11 you can also use the std::to_string (and std::to_wstring) function which is overloaded for all fundamental types and returns the string representation of its parameter.

std::string s = to_string(0x12f3);  // after this the string s contains "4851"