Oracle LIKE Operator

I am a C#, MS SQL developer who is new to Oracle PL/SQL.

My question is probably simple to you experts.

I created a function that searches for a substring within a string and returns the substring if found or 'none' if not found.

I am calling the function in a select statement using the dual table.

The function:




  IF phone_number LIKE '___-___-____' THEN

    --we have a phone number with an area code.

    RETURN SUBSTR(phone_number,1,3);


    --there is no area code

    RETURN 'none';




SQL Statement:
select area_code('716') from dual ;
Returns 'none'
select area_code('716-123-456') from dual ;
Also returns 'none'

What am I missing?

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your second example doesn't have 4 digits in the last portion

try this...

SELECT area_code('716-123-4567') FROM DUAL;

The underscore  for LIKE is a wildcard of exactly one character.

So ___-___-_____  means

exactly 3 characters, dash, exactly 3 characters, dash, exactly 4 characters

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DovbermanAuthor Commented:
Never mind, I found the error.

Changed IF phone_number LIKE '___-___-____' THEN

to IF phone_number             LIKE '___-___-_____' THEN

Needed 4 dashes as place holders to match the pattern specified in the function.

All programming languages are picky.
DovbermanAuthor Commented:
I've requested that this question be closed as follows:

Accepted answer: 0 points for Dovberman's comment #a40299552

for the following reason:

I found my error.
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mcsweenSr. Network AdministratorCommented:
The LIKE operator works exactly the same as SQL.

Select area_code from dual where somefield LIKE '716%';

Open in new window

you might want to try using regular expressions then you can check for digits rather than just any characters

IF REGEXP_LIKE(phone_number, '[0-9]{3}-[0-9]{3}-[0-9]{4}') THEN
No, the problem wasn't the number of dashes, you already had 3-3-4

the problem was your input data didn't look like a phone number.

The first post identified the problem.

Your suggested solution actually creates an additional problem because it has 5 underscores.  

This means

123-123-12345 would be accepted as a phone number even though it's not correct

Also, you may want to use my followup post anyway since it's a more thorough check than simple wildcarding
The example query in


has addtional problems because it checks only for starting with 3 digits

'716%'  would match  these strings which are not correct for that function

DovbermanAuthor Commented:
It was not as simple or complete as I had anticipated.

Thanks for the additional analyses.
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