CSS nth-child selector basics

Today we'll be going back to some CSS basics. I tend to use nth-child selectors in my articles.

But that made me realise I haven't really gone over the basics of using nth-child selectors.

Today we will be exploring the options of this powerful CSS selector and some examples.

Nth-child basic selectors

Let's start off by using some basic selectors.

We can define which element we want to select. So lets say we want to select the third item.

<ul>
    <li>Item 1</li>
    <li>Item 2</li>
    <li>Item 3</li>
    <li>Item 4</li>
    <li>Item 5</li>
</ul>
li:nth-child(3) {
    color: green;
}

Result:

nth-child number selector

Odd/Even selector

We can select every odd or even code by using these attributes.

li:nth-child(odd) {
    color: red;
}

Result:

nth-child odd selector

li:nth-child(even) {
    color: blue;
}

Result:

nth-child even selector

Every x selector

Something cool we do is select every x element, so let's say we want every fourth element:

    li:nth-child(4n) {
    color: purple;
}

Result:

nth-child every 4th

Or if we want to include the first one:

li:nth-child(4n+1) {
    color: purple;
}

Result:

nth-child every 4th from 1

We can also start from the second for instance:

li:nth-child(4n+2) {
    color: purple;
}

Result:

nth-child every 4th from 2

Everything but the first selector

We can even have a selector that states select everything but the first three elements.

li:nth-child(n+4) {
    color: teal;
}

Result:

nth-child everything but first three

Only first number selector

Another cool thing we can do it select only the first x amount. Let's get the first three

li:nth-child(-n+3) {
    color: teal;
}

Result:

nth-child first three

Selecting the last element

We can even select the last element.

li:last-child {
    color: orange;
}

Result:

nth last-child selector

With this, we can also offset to get the second to last one.

li:nth-last-child(2) {
    color: orange;
}

Result:

nth-last-child second to last

Combining selectors

We can even combine selectors!

Let's say you want to get every even number from an odd list amount.

<ul>
    <li>Item 1</li>
    <li>Item 2</li>
    <li>Item 3</li>
    <li>Item 4</li>
    <li>Item 5</li>
</ul>
<ul>
    <li>Item 1</li>
    <li>Item 2</li>
    <li>Item 3</li>
    <li>Item 4</li>
    <li>Item 5</li>
</ul>
<ul>
    <li>Item 1</li>
    <li>Item 2</li>
    <li>Item 3</li>
    <li>Item 4</li>
    <li>Item 5</li>
</ul>
ul:nth-child(odd) li:nth-child(even) {
    color: orange;
}

This will get all the odd ul and then all the even li in those.

Result:

nth-child double selector

Have a play around with this Codepen, try and change some selector to see what happens!

Browser Support

The nth-child selector has really good support and can be used in most of the browsers. Don't hesitate to make use of them.

CSS nth-child support

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Comments (2)

Madza's photo

Thee are handy from time to time 👌🔥

Chris Bongers's photo

Thanks Mazda, I tend to use them quite often (mainly the odd/even), but even the duplicate selectors come in handy.