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How to Search for Text


Tatoeba provides two ways to search for sentences:

  • the regular search bar at the top of every page
  • advanced search, which you can reach from the Advanced search link above the regular search bar

Regular search

For regular search, there are three fields:

  • the main field, which selects the word or words that you're looking for
  • the From field, which selects the language you're looking for matches in
  • the To field, which limits the search to sentences that have been directly or indirectly translated into the language you choose

Main search field

If you leave the main search field empty, it will find all sentences that match the From and To values that you've chosen. Otherwise, it will search for sentences containing the word or words that you type in.

The search engine that Tatoeba uses (Manticore) is a little different from other search engines that you may have used, such as Google's. Please note the following:

(1) Punctuation marks like ? and ! have special purposes in our search engine (Manticore, previously Sphinx). If you don't want to use those special functions, you should leave them out.

(2) In Arabic, Basque, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, Nepali, Norwegian (Bokmål), Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil and Turkish (though not in related languages such as Ancient Greek), a search for a word such as live will also find similar words, such as lived and living. If you want to indicate that a word should be matched exactly, you must put an equals sign before it: =live

(3) If you are searching for sentences in a language (such as Japanese or Chinese) that does not put spaces between words, be sure to see the section Languages without word boundaries below.

(4) You can use quotation marks to group words into phrases. For instance, met him will find matches where the words met and him will occur anywhere in the sentence, but "met him" will only find matches where the words occur in that order.

(5) For more information, read the section Examples in English.


The "From" field can be set to "Any language", in which case the search will find words in any language. Otherwise, the search will only find words in the language you choose.


The "To" field can be set to "Any language", in which case it will be ignored. Otherwise, the search will only find sentences that are linked to sentences in the language you choose. They can either be directly linked, in which case they will be shown in black, or indirectly linked, in which case they will be shown in gray. Two sentences are indirectly linked when there is a chain of translations between them but no one has put a link between those two sentences themselves. This means you cannot be sure that the sentences are translations of each other.

Examples in English

  • To find English sentences with "live", "lives", "living" or "lived", search for the word "live". (This will also find sentences with "Live", "Living", etc., since capitalization is ignored.)

  • To match a word exactly (ignoring capitalization), put an equals sign (=) before it.

  • Leave punctuation out of your search string. Most punctuation will be ignored, but a final exclamation mark (!) or question mark (?) will actually interfere with the search. (See Sentences with punctuation marks for an example.) These symbols have other purposes, as described later on this page.

  • Put a $ after a word to find sentences ending with that word. The example finds English sentences ending with "Tom".

  • Most punctuation symbols cannot be found via a search. However, $ and _ are special. You can search for sentences containing either of these characters by putting a backslash before the symbol.

  • Put a ^ before a word to find sentences beginning with that word. The example finds English sentences beginning with "Tom".

  • This example finds English sentences beginning with "Tom" and ending with "Mary".

  • This example finds English sentences beginning with either "Tom" or "He".

  • This example finds English sentences including any of the following words: "fasting", "fasted", "fasts". Using the equals sign means you'll get exact matches, so you will not find the forms "faster" and "fastest".

  • To search for a phrase, put quotes (") around it. Put an equals sign in front of each word that you want to be matched exactly. Or put an equals sign directly before the quotes to match every word in the quotes.

    • If you want to see phrases like "live in Boston", "living in Boston", or "lives in Boston", use the following search:

    • The following searches will only find sentences with the exact phrase "live in Boston".

    • This search will only find sentences consisting of the exact words "I live in Boston", without any additional words.

  • This example finds English sentences that have "Tom", but don't begin with "Tom."

  • This example finds English sentences that have "Tom", but don't begin or end with "Tom."

  • The question mark (?) as part of a word is a one-letter wildcard.

    • The following will find sentences with either "whenever" and "wherever."

    • The following will find sentences with with 6-letter words that have 2 letters, and then "eve" and then one more letter, such as "clever" "eleven", "peeves", and "uneven".

  • This example finds English sentences that have "Tom", then two words, then "Mary", then one word, and then "John."

  • This example finds English sentences that start with "Tom", then have three words, then end with "Mary".

  • This example finds English sentences that have words beginning with "red", including the word "red".

  • This example finds English sentences that have words ending with "red", including the word "red".

  • This example finds English sentences that have words containing the word "red", including the word "red".

  • This example finds English sentences with the letter sequence "red", but not the word "red."

  • This example finds English sentences that have the word "French", but don't have the word "Tom".

  • This example will find sentences with "cheek" (in any form: cheeks, etc.) that don't include any of the words preceded by a minus sign (-).

  • This example finds sentences in which the word "cat" comes before the word "dog."

  • This example finds sentences that contain at least two of the words "cat", "dog", and "fish" (a "quorum search").

How to limit sentences to "I can" without getting "I can't".

  • This shows just sentences beginning with "I can't."

  • However, this search shows both the "I can" and "I can't" sentences.

  • To just get "I can" sentences, without the "I can't" sentences, use this search. (Note that the quotes are necessary.)

How to find English sentences without "the", "a" or "an"

  • This search will get an error message, since you must specify at least one word that you want to include, not only words that you want to exclude:

-the -a -an

  • If you are determined to get as many results as possible, you can search for words that start with any letter of the alphabet, after putting a minus before each word that you do not want (though this query will take a long time):

-the -a -an a*|b*|c*|d*|e*|f*|g*|h*|i*|j*|k*|l*|m*|n*|o*|p*|q*|r*|s*|t*|u*|v*|w*|x*|y*|z*

How to find sentences with "of" followed by words ending in "ing" without any intervening words

  • of NEAR/1 *ing -"*ing of"

  • Notes

    • The -"ing of" part is necessary to avoid getting results where the -ing word comes before "of."
    • The search results will favor sentences that contain multiple occurrences of *ing. If you don't want this, change the search order.

How to find sentences with the "I myself" phrase (without any intervening words)

  • =I NEAR/1 =myself -(myself << I)

  • Note

    • The 2nd part of the query with the minus sign (-) is to ignore sentences that have the sequence "myself I". There are a number of such sentences.

How to find sentences with "do that", "does that", "did that", "doing that" and "done that".

Languages without word boundaries

For languages that don't use space characters to separate words, like Japanese, Chinese etc. the search engine interprets each character as a single word. For instance, searching for 逆に will return the same results as 逆 に, which actually matches sentences that only include these characters, but not necessarily in that particular order, or not contiguously. So you should surround keywords with quotes, as in this example:


More details

The search ignores capitalization and punctuation (unless the punctuation happens to match one of the special characters described elsewhere on the page).

If you want to find an exact match for a word in a language (like English) that supports stemming, you must precede it with an equals sign, as in =live. This may come as a surprise to users who are accustomed to Google Search, where wrapping a word or phrase in double quotes forces an exact match. In Manticore, double quotes have a different function, which only affects multiword (phrase) searches: wrapping a phrase in double quotes requires matching sentences to contain words in the specified continuous sequence. Simply placing a phrase in quotes does not suppress stemming of its individual words. To do that, you will need to place an equals sign before each word in the phrase for which you want to suppress stemming, or directly before the first quotation mark to suppress stemming for each word. If you want to put both an equals sign and a caret before the same word, the equals sign should precede the caret. For instance, to find sentences that begin with the exact word Noise, search for =^noise, not ^=noise.

As an example, take the search like thing. This will find like things, likely things, and even things like. Adding quotes, as in "like thing", will prevent a match against things like (where the words appear in the wrong order), but it will continue to match like things, likely things, and so on. By contrast, "=like =thing" will only match like thing (which does not occur in the Tatoeba corpus). Removing the double quotes, =like =thing, will match What made you do a silly thing like that? Removing one of the equals signs, as in like =thing, will find Such a strange thing is not likely to happen.

Note that a star (*) can be placed at the beginning, middle, or end of a string representing a word, but a string beginning with a star must be at least three characters long, or it will be ignored.

Limit matches to transcriptions or alternative scripts or sentence text

Some languages can be written in different scripts (such as traditional/simplified Chinese, or Latin/Cyrillic Uzbek). Others also have transcriptions (such as Pinyin Chinese or Japanese furigana).

By default, keywords will be searched everywhere: sentence text, alternative script and transcription. This means a sentence might come up in the results just because the transcription is matching.

You can control exactly what is searched by using the @text and @transcription prefixes, respectively targeting the sentence text and what’s under the sentence text.

Other search operators

  • A vertical bar (|, representing "or") finds examples where either of the words appears:

    • hate | detest will match sentences with either hate or detest (or both).
  • If you want to combine an or-expression with other terms, you need to put the or-expression in parentheses:

    • (red|blue) house will match sentences in which the word "house" appears together with either "red" or "blue" (or both)
  • A dash (-) before a word prevents matches with sentences where the word appears: like -thing (or like !thing) will match I like ice cream but not I like that red thing. An exclamation mark (!) works the same way.

  • Putting a caret (^) before a word will match only sentences that begin with that word: ^great will match Great people are not always wise. but not You are the great love of my life.

  • Putting a dollar sign ($) after a word will match only sentences that end with that word: life$ will match This is the best day of my life. but not Life means nothing without friends.

  • If you want to search for sentences that contain nothing other than the specified words, use double quotes, a caret, and a dollar sign in combination: "^i love you$" will find I love you. and I love you! but not I love you more than you love me. (However, it will find I loved you. To prevent this match, use "^i =love you$".)

  • The strict order operator (<<) between two words will find sentences where the first word occurs before the second but not where the second word comes before the first. Thus dog << cat will find examples where dog precedes cat, but not vice versa. This operator is also useful for searching for multiple instances of a string. For instance, these << these << these will find sentences with three instances of the word "these".

  • The proximity operator(~N, where N is a positive number) following a phrase will limit the number of words that can separate the specified words to fewer than N. Thus "you are *ble"~1 will find You are irresistible. but not You are partially responsible.

  • The quorum operator (/N, where N is a positive number) following a phrase will match sentences that have up to N matching words. Thus "I wish you would stop"/4 will find both I wish you would stop. and I wish you would reconsider.

  • The MAYBE keyword will make the part of the sentence to the right optional. However, sentences that do contain the optional words will be listed first in a default search (that is, one sorted by "Relevance"). For instance, "perhaps i can MAYBE help" will find both Perhaps I can help. and Perhaps I can answer that., but Perhaps I can help. will be listed first. By contrast, "perhaps i can MAYBE answer" will find the same sentences, but listed in the reverse order. MAYBE must be written in all capitals; "maybe" will match the word maybe.

See the Manticore documentation for operators for more detail.

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