How to Do a Boolean Search in Google

These tricks will improve your Google searches

Reflection of search button in businesswoman's glasses
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Using Boolean searches makes it easier to find what you are looking for in a Google search. The two basic Boolean search commands AND and OR are supported in Google, and they mean just what you think.

Boolean searches specify what you want to find, whether to make it more specific (using AND) or less specific (which is what OR is for).

It's important to keep a Boolean operator in all uppercase letters because that's how Google understands that you're using a search operator and not a regular word. Being careful when typing the search operator can make all the difference in the results you're given.

AND Boolean Operator

Screenshot showing how to use the AND Boolean operator on Google
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Use AND searches in Google to search for all the search terms you specify. It's helpful to use AND when you want to make sure that the topic you're researching is the topic you get in the search results.

As an example, say you search the word Amazon on Google. The results most likely show you things on Amazon.com, like the homepage of the site, its Twitter account, Amazon Prime information and other things you can buy on Amazon.com.

However, if you were instead looking for information on the Amazon rainforest, even searching for Amazon rainforest might give you results that are only about Amazon.com or the word Amazon in general. To make sure each search result includes both the words Amazon and rainforest, use the AND operator.

Examples:

  • Amazon AND rainforest
  • sausage AND biscuits
  • news AND war AND president

In each of these examples, search results include web pages with all the terms connected by the Boolean operator AND.

OR Boolean Operator

Screenshot showing an example of the OR Boolean operator on Google

Google uses the OR operator to search for one term or the other one. An article can contain either word but doesn't have to include both. This usually works well when you use two similar words or words that might be interchangeable.

Some writers choose the word draw instead of sketch when talking about drawings, for example. In this case, it'd be helpful to tell Google that you don't care which word is used since they both mean basically the same thing.

You can see how the OR operator is different from AND when you compare the results of "how to draw OR paint" versus "how to draw AND paint". Since the former gives Google the freedom to show you more content (since either word can be used), there are many more results than if you restrict the search to needing both words (like in the AND example).

You can also use the break (|) character in place of OR (it's the one attached to \, the backslash key).

Examples:

  • how to draw OR paint
  • how to draw | paint
  • primal OR paleo recipes
  • red OR yellow triangle

How to Combine Boolean Searches and Use Exact Phrases

Screenshot showing how to combine Boolean search operators on Google
 Lifewire

If you're searching for a phrase rather than a single word, you can group the words together with quotation marks.

For instance, searching for "sausage biscuits" (with the quotes included) only shows results for phrases that include the words together without anything between them. It ignores phrases such as sausage and cheese biscuits.

However, using "sausage biscuits" | "cheese sauce" give results of either exact phrase, so you'll find articles that talk about cheese sauce and others that are all about sausage biscuits.

When you' search for more than one phrase or keyword in addition to using a Boolean operator, group them with parenthesis, such as recipes gravy (sausage | biscuit) to search for gravy recipes for either sausages or biscuits. You could even combine exact phrases and search for "sausage biscuit" (recipe | review).

To follow in this example, if you want to make sure all of Google's results show you paleo sausage recipes that include cheese, one example could be to type (with quotes) "paleo recipe" (sausage AND cheese).

Boolean Operators Are Case Sensitive

Screenshot showing that Boolean expressions in Google are case sensitive
 Lifewire

It might seem like Google doesn't care about uppercase or lowercase letters when you're doing searches, but that isn't always true. For a Boolean operator to work, it has to be in all capital letters.

You can see for yourself that Boolean searches are case sensitive when you make OR lower case. For example, searching for "freeware for Windows OR Mac" gives vastly different results than searching for "freeware for Windows or Mac".