This question has been asked before here and here. I want to provide full-text support using postgreSQL via to_tsquery. However, since escaping characters leads to complications, I think it is okay to simply filtering special characters that could provoke errors.

What are the characters I need to remove to use to_tsquery safely. So far, I have identified the following:

  1. Input that contains &, |, : might produce syntax errors
  2. Input with * might not work as expected (to_tsquery('a*b') produces 'b')
  3. quotes need to be escaped

What do you suggest in order to take user input in to_tsquery? What are other special characters I need to remove?

2 Answers 2


You may want to just leave it as users enter it, since you can safely use strings processed twice via quote_literal. In the to_tsquery documentation, the example for phrases within ts queries is:

SELECT to_tsquery('''supernovae stars'' & !crab');

Adding some junk to the phrase breaks it, unless you pass it twice via quote_literal, which makes any string safe to use:

SELECT to_tsquery(quote_literal(quote_literal('supernovae '':|stars')) || ' & !crab');
  • 1
    Thanks. I was playing with your last query but I can't figure out why you need to use quote_literal twice: Depending on what meant, this SELECT to_tsquery(quote_literal('supernovae '':|stars' || ' & !crab')); and this SELECT to_tsquery(quote_literal('supernovae '':|stars') || ' & !crab'); works. The only issue I can see is that quote_literal doesn't allow me to use the | operator instead of & and that quoting needs to be used correctly (as you did, in your example, with '').
    – r_31415
    Apr 12, 2016 at 22:16

Input that contains &, |, : might produce syntax errors

Use plainto_tsquery() instead of to_tsquery(). It's meant to accept free-form user input.

Input with * might not work as expected (to_tsquery('a*b') produces 'b')

The text configuration matters. For instance,

select to_tsquery('simple','a*b');
  'a' & 'b'

select to_tsquery('english','a*b');

quotes need to be escaped

The same as with any text literal.

Or they don't need to be escaped if using prepared or parametrized statements with $N-style parameters, if your client-side environment supports that.

  • 2
    Thank you. The issue with plainto_tsquery() is that it inserts the & operator and as far I know, that can't be changed. I think it is better if I use | instead. Yes, I'm using parameterized statements.
    – r_31415
    Apr 12, 2016 at 22:25

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