PHP: A function to return the first n words from a string

Do you ever find yourself needing to shorten a string in PHP? Maybe return the first 25 words of a long story? Give this routine a try. It will return the first n words from a string, or the entire string if it is less than n words long.

function shorten_string($string, $wordsreturned)
/*	Returns the first $wordsreturned out of $string.  If string
contains fewer words than $wordsreturned, the entire string
is returned.
$retval = $string;		//	Just in case of a problem

$array = explode(" ", $string);
if (count($array)<=$wordsreturned)
/*	Already short enough, return the whole thing
$retval = $string;
/*	Need to chop of some words
array_splice($array, $wordsreturned);
$retval = implode(" ", $array)." ...";
return $retval;

20 thoughts on “PHP: A function to return the first n words from a string

  1. Michael says:

    Thanks. Very usefull. Just cut n pasted into my program and ran.

  2. Luke says:


    Very useful.

  3. bogatyr says:

    Just saved me that much work. Much thanks.

  4. fest says:

    I'll definately drink a sip of beer for your health. Thanks for the function ;)

  5. Tom Something says:

    Thanks. Short and simple is the way to go, and now I have a practical example of array_splice to do other stuff with.

    Noticed a small typo in your inline comment:

    "If string contains more words than $wordsreturned, the entire string is returned."

    should probably read "Unless string contains..."

    of "If string contains <= $wordsreturned..."

  6. Tom Something says:

    ...aaaaand a typo in my own comment. Go me!

  7. Ryan says:

    Thanks. You're right, it should be if string contains fewer words then...

  8. prem ypi says:

    This is really helpful. I had to pick up first name of the user and it worked like charm

  9. Edvan says:

    Here go another way:

    function first_word()
    preg_match('/[^ ]*/', $username, $matches);
    return $matches[0];

  10. Amr says:

    Great work.
    I was looking for such function.
    Thank you very much

  11. Shailendra says:

    Nice Function..

  12. kaylaximuoi says:

    That's exactly what I need. Thanks Ryan! ^_^

  13. Ted says:

    Perfect! Thank you very much, though there is a bug in a code on line: 10. There must be as follows: if (count($array) == $wordsreturned)


    • Ryan says:

      The &lt; that was there was from WordPress trying to format. It shouldn't be == though. Let's say that you want no more than 20 words, but the string only has 5. The if wouldn't fire to catch that it doesn't need to do anything.

  14. Ajay says:

    Thanks A lot!!!!...................

  15. Rajnox says:

    Use substr function in PHP

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