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How to Search for Text

Briefly, ...

  • To find English sentences with "live", "lives", "living" or "lived", you can search using the word "live".

  • For exact matches, you need to use an equals sign (=) before a word.

  • To search for a phrase, put double quotes around it. Put an equals sign in front of each word that you want to be matched exactly.

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

  • If you also want to see phrases like "living in Boston" or "lives in Boston", remove the equals signs:

  • Use a bar (|) to mean "or".

  • The following search will find sentences with either "eat" or "drink" (in any form) and both "Tom" and "Mary".

  • Use a minus sign (-) to mean "no" (to find sentences without certain words).

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

More Details

Each page on Tatoeba features a box that allows you to search for text within the collection of sentences. The search will only find sentences that have been indexed by a script that is run every few months. Sentences that have been added more recently will not appear in the results. However, you can find the latest sentences added by a particular user (perhaps yourself), either by looking at the user's profile and selecting "Show latest activity" or by going to an address like (where you replace "trang" with the name of the user whose sentences you want to see).

The search engine used on Tatoeba is Sphinx. In many languages, including English, Sphinx stems the search words by default. This means that it removes certain trailing sequences from both search words and indexed words. Thus a search for pare will also find pared and paring.

If you want to find an exact match for a word, you must precede it with an equals sign, as in =pare. 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 Sphinx, 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.

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.

You may be interested in other features, such as the following:

  • A vertical bar finds examples where either of the words appears: hate | detest will match sentences with either hate or detest (or both)

  • A dash (or exclamation point) 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.

See the Sphinx documentation for other functionality. Note that keywords pertaining to specific fields in a document are not relevant to Tatoeba.