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Googling: using the asterisk

One of the things people often forget they can do in Google is to use the asterisk to replace a word. This is very useful if we have constructed a phrase but we are unsure what the best noun, adjective, verb or adverb is in a specific position in the phrase.

Imagine, for example, we have the Spanish sentence “Hamilton logró su segundo pole”. Now imagine it’s one of those days where your mind is blocked, and all you can think of is  the literal translation “Hamilton acheived his second pole”.

We can create a Google search to see what other verbs can fit in there. We’ll replace
“Hamilton” by the generic “he”, replace “second” by an asterisk so that we still get hits however many times the driver has had a pole, and replace “acheived” by an asterisk to see what other verbs there are:

“he * his * pole”

We get a few results, and we can see “claimed” and “earned” in there, but many of the results are related to fishing. If we want to see more verbs we can do the same search, but excluding pages in which the word “fishing” appears:

“he * his * pole” -fishing

We see a few more verbs, such as “scored” and “won”, but we still get quite a few irrelevant results, because of the fact the word “pole” exists in so many different fields. We know, though, that “pole” is short for “pole position”, and that the term “pole position” is specific to motorsport, so we can add the word “position” to our sentence (and remove the exclusion of “fishing” if we like), and we get even better results:

“he * his * pole position”

We can now add “celebrated”, “took”, “powered into”, “obtained”, “captured”, and many other verbs to the list of possibilities. We can also identify other pieces of interesting information, such as that if our sentence said “primer pole” (that is “first pole”) we could say “maiden pole (position)”.

Please leave a comment if you find this useful, just so I know I’m not wasting my time!


5 thoughts on “Googling: using the asterisk

  1. Although I was aware of it, it isn’t something I actively use. I will now. It will come in useful in my new job – thanks.

  2. Seguro que hay un montón de gente que no sabe todos estos “trucos” y creo que es súper útil que los comentes aquí, ¡y de manera tan pedagógica! Gracias.

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