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Python Regular Expressions

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asked Jun 11 in Python by anonymous

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regular expression is a special sequence of characters that helps you match or find other strings or sets of strings, using a specialized syntax held in a pattern. Regular expressions are widely used in UNIX world.

The module re provides full support for Perl-like regular expressions in Python. The re module raises the exception re.error if an error occurs while compiling or using a regular expression.

We would cover two important functions, which would be used to handle regular expressions. But a small thing first: There are various characters, which would have special meaning when they are used in regular expression. To avoid any confusion while dealing with regular expressions, we would use Raw Strings as r'expression'.

The match Function

This function attempts to match RE pattern to stringwith optional flags.

Here is the syntax for this function −

re.match(pattern, string, flags=0)

Here is the description of the parameters:

patternThis is the regular expression to be matched.
stringThis is the string, which would be searched to match the pattern at the beginning of string.
flagsYou can specify different flags using bitwise OR (|). These are modifiers, which are listed in the table below.

The re.match function returns a match object on success, None on failure. We usegroup(num) or groups() function of match object to get matched expression.

Match Object MethodsDescription
group(num=0)This method returns entire match (or specific subgroup num)
groups()This method returns all matching subgroups in a tuple (empty if there weren't any)


import re

line = "Cats are smarter than dogs"

matchObj = re.match( r'(.*) are (.*?) .*', line, re.M|re.I)

if matchObj:
   print " : ",
   print " : ",
   print " : ",
   print "No match!!"

When the above code is executed, it produces following result − :  Cats are smarter than dogs :  Cats :  smarter
answered Jun 11 by anonymous
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Regular Expression Modifiers: Option Flags

Regular expression literals may include an optional modifier to control various aspects of matching. The modifiers are specified as an optional flag. You can provide multiple modifiers using exclusive OR (|), as shown previously and may be represented by one of these −

re.IPerforms case-insensitive matching.
re.LInterprets words according to the current locale. This interpretation affects the alphabetic group (\w and \W), as well as word boundary behavior (\b and \B).
re.MMakes $ match the end of a line (not just the end of the string) and makes ^ match the start of any line (not just the start of the string).
re.SMakes a period (dot) match any character, including a newline.
re.UInterprets letters according to the Unicode character set. This flag affects the behavior of \w, \W, \b, \B.
re.XPermits "cuter" regular expression syntax. It ignores whitespace (except inside a set [] or when escaped by a backslash) and treats unescaped # as a comment marker.

Regular Expression Patterns

Except for control characters, (+ ? . * ^ $ ( ) [ ] { } | \), all characters match themselves. You can escape a control character by preceding it with a backslash.

Following table lists the regular expression syntax that is available in Python −

^Matches beginning of line.
$Matches end of line.
.Matches any single character except newline. Using m option allows it to match newline as well.
[...]Matches any single character in brackets.
[^...]Matches any single character not in brackets
re*Matches 0 or more occurrences of preceding expression.
re+Matches 1 or more occurrence of preceding expression.
re?Matches 0 or 1 occurrence of preceding expression.
re{ n}Matches exactly n number of occurrences of preceding expression.
re{ n,}Matches n or more occurrences of preceding expression.
re{ n, m}Matches at least n and at most m occurrences of preceding expression.
a| bMatches either a or b.
(re)Groups regular expressions and remembers matched text.
(?imx)Temporarily toggles on i, m, or x options within a regular expression. If in parentheses, only that area is affected.
(?-imx)Temporarily toggles off i, m, or x options within a regular expression. If in parentheses, only that area is affected.
(?: re)Groups regular expressions without remembering matched text.
(?imx: re)Temporarily toggles on i, m, or x options within parentheses.
(?-imx: re)Temporarily toggles off i, m, or x options within parentheses.
(?= re)Specifies position using a pattern. Doesn't have a range.
(?! re)Specifies position using pattern negation. Doesn't have a range.
(?> re)Matches independent pattern without backtracking.
\wMatches word characters.
\WMatches nonword characters.
\sMatches whitespace. Equivalent to [\t\n\r\f].
\SMatches nonwhitespace.
\dMatches digits. Equivalent to [0-9].
\DMatches nondigits.
\AMatches beginning of string.
\ZMatches end of string. If a newline exists, it matches just before newline.
\zMatches end of string.
\GMatches point where last match finished.
\bMatches word boundaries when outside brackets. Matches backspace (0x08) when inside brackets.
\BMatches nonword boundaries.
\n, \t, etc.Matches newlines, carriage returns, tabs, etc.
\1...\9Matches nth grouped subexpression.
\10Matches nth grouped subexpression if it matched already. Otherwise refers to the octal representation of a character code.
answered Jun 11 by anonymous