CodeGym /Java Blog /Strings in Java /Java String contains() Method
John Selawsky
Senior Java Developer and Tutor at LearningTree

Java String contains() Method

Published in the Strings in Java group
This function is specially designed to check if a string ‘contains’ another string or not. If you’re new to this you might end up using it to find a ‘character’. But it won’t serve the purpose. In this article, we’ll address how java.lang.String.contains() is used, implemented and what exceptions can arise if not used carefully.

What is the contains() method?

You can use the contains(String key) method to “find” if a certain string “key” is present within a certain string or not. If “key” is found, “true” is returned. Else you will get a “false”.Java String contains() Method - 1

Internal Implementation

This method is already implemented by java.lang.String. You don’t have to implement this yourself. Here’s a quick explanation of it for your understanding.

public class ContainsMethod 
    public boolean contains(CharSequence key) 
        return indexOf(key.toString()) > -1;  

Code Explanation

contains() method, takes a CharSequence as an input parameter. Which is later on converted to a “String”. Then this expression is computed indexOf(key.toString()) > -1;. Which means, if that “key” is found at any index ( “0” or greater ) then “true” is returned. And if the key is not found, then a “false” is returned.

How to use the contains() method?

Here’s how you can use it.

public class ContainsMethod {
    public static void main(String[] args) {

	String input = "A brown fox jumped over a lazy dog.";

	// check the containing strings
	System.out.println("input.contains(bro) = " + input.contains("bro"));
	System.out.println("input.contains(brown) = " + input.contains("brown"));
	System.out.println("input.contains(Brown) = " + input.contains("Brown"));

	System.out.println("input.contains(fox) = " + input.contains("fox"));
	System.out.println("input.contains(xof) = " + input.contains("xof"));
	System.out.println("input.contains(dog) = " + input.contains("dog"));
	System.out.println("input.contains(lazyy) = " + input.contains("lazyy"));
	System.out.println("input.contains(jumping) = " + input.contains("jumping"));
input.contains(bro) = true input.contains(brown) = true input.contains(Brown) = false // false because case-sensitive input.contains(fox) = true input.contains(xof) = false // false because order should be the same input.contains(dog) = true input.contains(lazyy) = false // false because whole substring not found input.contains(jumping) = false

Code Explanation

Please note, this method is case-sensitive for input parameters. So in the above snippet, you can observe when you search “brown” true is returned, whereas false is returned for “Brown”. Also, you’ll get true if you find “fox” and false for “xof” or “oxf” because the order of characters needs to be the same. Lastly, if you find “jump” or “jumped” you will get a true as the whole parameter is present in the “input” string. Whereas, if you check for “jumping” false is returned because the entire key (“jumping”) is not found.

Taking care of Exceptions

java.lang.String.contains() method results in a Null Pointer Exception if you forget to initialize the parameter string with some concrete value.

public class ContainsMethod {
    public static void main(String[] args) {

      String input = "Here is a test string.";
      String test = null;

	// check what happens if you look for a null string 
	System.out.println("input.contains(test) = " + input.contains(test));

Exception in thread "main" java.lang.NullPointerException
	at java.lang.String.contains(
	at ContainsMethod.main(


Contains() method provides a handy java utility to find any char-sequence or a string. We hope by the end of this post, you’re familiar with its use and implementation. For an even better understanding, you’re encouraged to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Creating error-free code comes with consistent effort. So let’s get it guys! You’re always welcome to get back here when you get stuck. Happy Coding. :)