< Back to CSS and Sass notes

Useful CSS Selectors

CSS Selectors that solve lots of different or unusual styling problems


This is a list of useful Sass/CSS code for selecting elements based on many different factors, like state and number of siblings.

General Sibling Selector

This selects all sibling elements after the indicated one by using a ~ symbol. Compare it to the direct sibling selector, +, which only selects the sibling right next to it.

.first-element + div { ... }
// Only the div right next to the first element

.first-element ~ div { ... }
// All divs that come after the first element

Attribute Selectors

You can style elements based on if an attribute is there, regardless of any value.

a[href] { ... }
// Target all anchors with an href

a:not([href]) { ... }
// Targets all anchors without an href

There’s also several selectors that target the attribute’s values in different ways. They look for different kinds of partial matches, making them more flexible and can be fine-tuned as needed.

div[class^="size"] { ... }
// Targets divs with class names that start with "size"

div[class|="size"] { ... }
// Targets divs with class names that start with "size"
// OR the selected attribute is a dash-separated like (like size-large-landscape) and the value is first in that list

img[src$=".jpeg"] { ... }
// Targets all images with src attributes ending in .jpeg
// In other words, this targets all jpeg images

img[src*="large"] { ... }
// Targets images with sources that have "large" ANYWHERE in them
// So *= searches with for the value anywhere in the attribute

div[class~="large"] { ... }
// If the attribute has a list of space-separated values, this looks if one of the values matches the selector's value
// In other words, this looks if "large" is one of the div's classes. It looks for a whole name match, not if it's contained as part of a larger name

Select Empty Elements

If there’s nothing in an element, you can style it differently or even hide it altogether

div:empty { ... }

// You can use the inverse too
div:not(:empty) { ... }

Don’t put content in here with psuedo elements! It’s not accessible.

Select All If A Certain Amount

If you want to style items differently if there’s a certain amount (such as making them smaller if there’s at least five), use the below mixin.

@mixin at-least($min) {
  &:first-child:nth-last-child(n+#{$min}) ~ li {

// Example for changing styles after a certain number
li {
  display: block;

  @include at-least(5) {
    display: inline-block;

Select Range of Items

// range selector mixin
@mixin select-range($start, $end){

// Example
li {
  @include select-range(4, 7) {
    // Styles here apply to items four to seven in the list

Select All Items Based on Number of Siblings

The mod query, as the article I’m referencing describes it, applies styles to all list elements if the list meets these two criteria:

  1. The number of items is devisible by the mod value (with or without a remainder)
  2. The remainder left over from the mod value is equal to the specified remainder

See the full mixin here:

// mod query mixin
@mixin mod-list($mod, $remainder){
  &:nth-last-child(#{$mod}n+#{$remainder}):first-child ~ li {

// Examples
li {
  @include mod-list(4, 0) {
    // Select all items if the number of items is divisible by four
    // 12, 16, and 20 would work

  @include mod-list(4, 1) {
    // Select all items if the number of items is divisible by four
    // with a remainder of 1.
    // 13, 17, and 21 would work

Other selectors can also be used within this, to narrow down what items to select when this criteria is met.

li {
  @include mod-list(4, 0) {
    &:first-of-type {
      // Select the first item in a list divisible by four

    &:nth-last-of-type(2) {
      // Select the last and second to last items

    // You can use the above mixin too!
    @include select-range(2, 5) {
      // Select all items between and including two and five

Child Selectors

There’s lots of useful child selectors that can target different ranges of elements