Say we have the following XML:
The question is, what does the XPath expression
//para return? I originally expected it to select all the
para elements and then return just the first one. In fact, what it returns is
This is because what the expression actually means is, “return all the para elements that are the first child of any element”.
Why is that? According to the XPath specification,
// is actually the abbreviation for
/descendant-or-self::node()/, so that
//para is actually
p3 are the first children of their parents, and
p2 is the second child* of its parent, the nodes returned are
*Assuming we’re ignoring whitespace, of course, which is always a bit of an adventure.
If I really want the first instance of all the
para elements, then I need the expression
/descendant::para. That collects all the
para elements and returns the first one.
A side benefit to this approach is that it forced me to learn how to spell “descendant” correctly. 🙂