How to Copy and Paste on an iPhone

Move text around or save it for later

Illustration of a person copying highlighted text on their iPhone

 Lifewire / Maritsa Patrinos

Copy-and-paste is one of the most basic and most commonly used features of any desktop or laptop computer. It's hard to imagine being able to use a computer without it. The iPhone (and iPad and iPod Touch) also has a copy and paste feature. But without an Edit menu at the top of every app like on macOS or Windows, it can be hard to find.

Here's how to use copy and paste on the iPhone and other iOS devices. Once you know, you'll become a lot more productive on your smartphone.

How to Copy and Paste Text on iPhone

You access the copy and paste commands through a pop-up menu. Most apps support this feature.

  1. Find the text you want to copy.

  2. Tap a word or area of the screen, and hold your finger down until a window appears that magnifies the text you selected. When it shows up, remove your finger.

    The copy and paste menu ​appears, and the word or section of text you tapped will highlight.

    Depending on the app you're using, you may have different options when the menu appears.

    Opening the copy and paste menu on an iPhone
  3. The handles (circles) at the edges of the highlighted word or section let you select more text. Tap and drag either of the blue lines in the direction you want to select — left and right, up and down. The menu will reappear when you stop selecting.

    Selection tool on an iPhone
  4. When you have the text you want to copy highlighted, tap Copy in the pop-up menu. The copied text saves to a virtual clipboard. After you tap an option in the menu, the menu will disappear.

    The clipboard can only contain one copied item (text, image, link, etc.) at a time, so if you copy one thing, and then copy something else, you'll lose the first item.

    Copying text on an iPhone
  5. Go to the app you want to copy the text into. It can be the same app you copied it from — like copying text from one email to another in Mail — or another app entirely, such as copying something from the Safari web browser into a to-do list app.

    Tap the location in the app/document where you want to paste the text and hold your finger down until the magnifying glass appears. When it does, remove your finger, and the pop-up menu appears. Tap Paste to paste the text.

    Pasting text on an iPhone
  6. If you're pasting into a document that already contains words, you can drag your finger after the magnifier appears to place the cursor where you want the new text to appear.

How to Copy Links on an iPhone

To copy a link, tap and hold on the link until a menu appears from the bottom of the screen with the URL of the link at the top. Tap Copy. You can paste it using the same steps as other text.

Copying a link on an iPhone

How to Copy Images on an iPhone

You can also copy and paste images on the iPhone. To do that, tap and hold on the image until a menu pops up from the bottom with Copy as an option. Depending on the app, that menu may appear from the bottom of the screen.

Not all apps support copying images.

Copying an image on iPhone

Advanced Features: Look Up, Share, and Universal Clipboard

The copy-and-paste menu contains more options than those. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Look Up: To get the definition for a word, tap and hold it until it's selected. Then tap Look Up, and you'll get a dictionary definition, suggested websites, and more.
  • Share: Once you've copied text, pasting isn't the only thing you can do. You might prefer to share it with another app — Twitter, Facebook, or Evernote, for instance. To do that, select the text you want to share and tap Share in the pop-up menu to reveal the sharing sheet at the bottom of the screen (as if you tapped the box with the arrow coming out of it) and the other apps you can share to.
  • Universal Clipboard: If you have an iPhone and a Mac, and they're both configured to use the Handoff feature, you can take advantage of the Universal Clipboard, which lets you copy text on your iPhone and then paste it on your Mac, or vice versa, using iCloud