How to Iterate Over the Words of a String: Explained with Examples and Code


When working with strings in programming, it is often necessary to iterate over the individual words of a string. This can be useful in a variety of situations, such as counting the number of words in a text or performing operations on each word separately. In this article, we will explore different approaches to iterate over the words of a string and provide examples using C++. We will focus on elegance rather than efficiency, prioritizing readability and maintainability of the code.

Method 1: Using string streams

One common approach to iterate over the words of a string is by using string streams. This method involves creating an input string stream from the original string and then extracting each word using the extraction operator (>>).

#include <iostream>
#include <sstream>
#include <string>

using namespace std;

int main() {
    string s = "Somewhere down the road";
    istringstream iss(s);

    do {
        string subs;
        iss >> subs;
        cout << "Substring: " << subs << endl;
    } while (iss);

The above code demonstrates how to iterate over the words of the string "Somewhere down the road". We start by creating an instance of the istringstream class, which is a stream class that allows input operations on a string. We pass the original string to the constructor of istringstream.

Inside the do-while loop, we declare a string variable "subs" to store each extracted word. We then use the extraction operator (>>) to extract the next word from the istringstream and assign it to "subs". Finally, we output the extracted word to the console.

Method 2: Using regular expressions

Another approach to iterate over the words of a string is by using regular expressions. Regular expressions provide a powerful and flexible way to match and manipulate text patterns. In C++, we can use the std::regex library to work with regular expressions.

#include <iostream>
#include <regex>
#include <string>

int main() {
    std::string s = "Somewhere down the road";
    std::regex word_regex("\\w+");

    auto words_begin = std::sregex_iterator(s.begin(), s.end(), word_regex);
    auto words_end = std::sregex_iterator();

    for (std::sregex_iterator i = words_begin; i != words_end; ++i) {
        std::smatch match = *i;
        std::cout << "Word: " << match.str() << std::endl;

The above code demonstrates how to iterate over the words of the string "Somewhere down the road" using regular expressions. We start by creating a regular expression object "word_regex" that matches one or more word characters (\w+). The "\w" represents any word character (a-z, A-Z, 0-9, or underscore) and the "+" indicates one or more occurrences.

Next, we use std::sregex_iterator to define two iterators, "words_begin" and "words_end". The "words_begin" iterator is initialized with the beginning and end of the input string "s", and the regular expression "word_regex". The "words_end" iterator is created without any arguments, indicating the end iterator.

Finally, we iterate over the words using a for loop. Inside the loop, we access each word using the dereferenced iterator "*i", and store it in a std::smatch object named "match". We then output the matched word to the console using "match.str()".

Method 3: Manual word extraction

In some cases, you may prefer a more manual approach to iterate over the words of a string. This can be useful if you have specific requirements or need to perform additional operations on each word. Here is an example of how to manually extract words from a string:

#include <iostream>
#include <string>

void iterateWords(const std::string& s) {
    std::string word;
    std::string delimiter = " ";
    size_t pos = 0;
    while ((pos = s.find(delimiter)) != std::string::npos) {
        word = s.substr(0, pos);
        std::cout << "Word: " << word << std::endl;
        s.erase(0, pos + delimiter.length());
    std::cout << "Word: " << s << std::endl;

int main() {
    std::string s = "Somewhere down the road";

The above code defines a function "iterateWords" that takes a string "s" as input. Inside the function, we initialize a string variable "word" to store each extracted word and a string variable "delimiter" to indicate the separator between words (in this case, a space character).

We then use a while loop to iterate over the string. In each iteration, we find the position of the next delimiter using "s.find(delimiter)", and store it in the "pos" variable. If a delimiter is found, we extract the word from the beginning of the string using "s.substr(0, pos)", and output it to the console.

After extracting the word, we remove it from the input string using "s.erase(0, pos + delimiter.length())". This ensures that the next iteration starts from the correct position in the string. The loop continues until no more delimiters are found, and then we output the remaining word (if any) at the end of the string.


In this article, we have explored different methods to iterate over the words of a string in C++. We started with using string streams, which provide a straightforward approach to extract individual words. We then looked at using regular expressions, which offer more flexibility and pattern matching capabilities. Finally, we discussed a manual approach to extract words, allowing for customizations and additional operations.

Depending on the requirements of your specific use case, you can choose the method that best suits your needs. In general, string streams are a good choice for simple scenarios where you just need to iterate over the words. Regular expressions are more powerful and can handle complex patterns, but may be overkill for simple tasks. The manual approach gives you the most control but requires more manual manipulation of the string.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with the necessary information and examples to effectively iterate over the words of a string in C++. Happy coding!