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Get First Word in Excel & Google Sheets

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This tutorial will demonstrate how to extract the first word from a cell in Excel & Google Sheets.

Extract First Word In Excel

Extract First Word From a Text

To extract the first word from a cell, we can use a formula containing the LEFT and FIND functions.

=LEFT(B3,FIND(" ", B3)-1)

Extract First Word Formula

Let’s delve into the more details of the functions used in the above formula.

The FIND Function

We used the FIND function to get the position of the first occurrence of space in the text.

Because the FIND function includes the position of the space character from the text in the calculation, we’ll deduct 1 from the value returned (from the FIND function) to exclude the space character.

=FIND(" ",B3)-1

Extract First Word 1st Part of Formula

The LEFT Function

The LEFT Function will extract a certain number of characters from the string, starting from the left. The number of characters was determined in the previous formula.


Extract First Word 2nd Part of Formula

Error Handling

In case the cell has only one word, the formula will return #VALUE error.

So to prevent the formula to return the error we can use the following two options using:

The IFFERROR Function

We can solve this issue by using the IFERROR function before our formula, like this:


Extract First Word IFERROR

The IFERROR function, when finds an error will return the original text value – which could be the one word or an empty cell.

Simpler Way

There’s also a smart and simpler way to handle the #VALUE error. It is to add additional space to the second argument of the FIND function, with ampersand operator, like this:

=LEFT(B3,FIND(" ",B3&" ")-1)

Extract First Word Simple Way to Handle Error

Now the FIND function will always find a space because we’ve appended a space to the end of each string of text.

Non-Space Separators

If the text string is not separated by space but from a different delimiting character, then by simply changing the value of the first argument in the FIND function with that delimiting character, we’ll get the first word from the text.

=LEFT(B3,FIND("-",B3&" ")-1)

Extract First Word Non Space Separator Formula

Get Last Word

Extracting the last word from a string of text is more complicated. One option is to use a formula like this:


Exctract the Last word using 2nd Formula

Extract First Word In Google Sheets

The formula to extract the first word from a text works exactly the same in Google Sheets as in Excel:

Extract First Word In Google Sheets