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Python RegEx


A RegEx, or Regular Expression, is a sequence of characters that forms a search pattern.

RegEx can be used to check if a string contains the specified search pattern.


RegEx Module

Python has a built-in package called re, which can be used to work with Regular Expressions.

Import the re module:

import re

RegEx in Python

When you have imported the re module, you can start using regular expressions:

Example

Search the string to see if it starts with "The" and ends with "Spain":

import re

txt = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.search("^The.*Spain$", txt)
Run example »

RegEx Functions

The re module offers a set of functions that allows us to search a string for a match:

Function Description
findall Returns a list containing all matches
search Returns a Match object if there is a match anywhere in the string
split Returns a list where the string has been split at each match
sub Replaces one or many matches with a string


Metacharacters

Metacharacters are characters with a special meaning:

Character Description Example Try it
[] A set of characters "[a-m]" Try it »
\ Signals a special sequence (can also be used to escape special characters) "\d" Try it »
. Any character (except newline character) "he..o" Try it »
^ Starts with "^hello" Try it »
$ Ends with "world$" Try it »
* Zero or more occurrences "aix*" Try it »
+ One or more occurrences "aix+" Try it »
{} Excactly the specified number of occurrences "al{2}" Try it »
| Either or "falls|stays" Try it »
() Capture and group    

Special Sequences

A special sequence is a \ followed by one of the characters in the list below, and has a special meaning:

Character Description Example Try it
\A Returns a match if the specified characters are at the beginning of the string "\AThe" Try it »
\b Returns a match where the specified characters are at the beginning or at the end of a word r"\bain"
r"ain\b"
Try it »
Try it »
\B Returns a match where the specified characters are present, but NOT at the beginning (or at the end) of a word r"\Bain"
r"ain\B"
Try it »
Try it »
\d Returns a match where the string contains digits (numbers from 0-9) "\d" Try it »
\D Returns a match where the string DOES NOT contain digits "\D" Try it »
\s Returns a match where the string contains a white space character "\s" Try it »
\S Returns a match where the string DOES NOT contain a white space character "\S" Try it »
\w Returns a match where the string contains any word characters (characters from a to Z, digits from 0-9, and the underscore _ character) "\w" Try it »
\W Returns a match where the string DOES NOT contain any word characters "\W" Try it »
\Z Returns a match if the specified characters are at the end of the string "Spain\Z" Try it »

Sets

A set is a set of characters inside a pair of square brackets [] with a special meaning:

Set Description Try it
[arn] Returns a match where one of the specified characters (a, r, or n) are present Try it »
[a-n] Returns a match for any lower case character, alphabetically between a and n Try it »
[^arn] Returns a match for any character EXCEPT a, r, and n Try it »
[0123] Returns a match where any of the specified digits (0, 1, 2, or 3) are present Try it »
[0-9] Returns a match for any digit between 0 and 9 Try it »
[0-5][0-9] Returns a match for any two-digit numbers from 00 and 59 Try it »
[a-zA-Z] Returns a match for any character alphabetically between a and z, lower case OR upper case Try it »
[+] In sets, +, *, ., |, (), $,{} has no special meaning, so [+] means: return a match for any + character in the string Try it »

 

The findall() Function

The findall() function returns a list containing all matches.

Example

Print a list of all matches:

import re

str = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.findall("ai", str)
print(x)
Run example »

The list contains the matches in the order they are found.

If no matches are found, an empty list is returned:

Example

Return an empty list if no match was found:

import re

str = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.findall("Portugal", str)
print(x)
Run example »

 

The search() Function

The search() function searches the string for a match, and returns a Match object if there is a match.

If there is more than one match, only the first occurrence of the match will be returned:

Example

Search for the first white-space character in the string:

import re

str = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.search("\s", str)

print("The first white-space character is located in position:", x.start())
Run example »

If no matches are found, the value None is returned:

Example

Make a search that returns no match:

import re

str = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.search("Portugal", str)
print(x)
Run example »

 

The split() Function

The split() function returns a list where the string has been split at each match:

Example

Split at each white-space character:

import re

str = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.split("\s", str)
print(x)
Run example »

You can control the number of occurrences by specifying the maxsplit parameter:

Example

Split the string only at the first occurrence:

import re

str = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.split("\s", str, 1)
print(x)
Run example »

 

The sub() Function

The sub() function replaces the matches with the text of your choice:

Example

Replace every white-space character with the number 9:

import re

str = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.sub("\s", "9", str)
print(x)
Run example »

You can control the number of replacements by specifying the count parameter:

Example

Replace the first 2 occurrences:

import re

str = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.sub("\s", "9", str, 2)
print(x)
Run example »

 

Match Object

A Match Object is an object containing information about the search and the result.

Note: If there are no match, the value None will be returned, instead of the Match Object.

Example

Do a search that will return a Match Object:

import re

str = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.search("ai", str)
print(x) #this will print an object
Run example »

The Match object has properties and methods used to retrieve information about the search, and the result:

.span() returns a tuple containing the start-, and end positions of the match.
.string returns the string passed into the function
.group() returns the part of the string where there was a match

Example

Print the position (start- and end-position) of the first match occurrence.

The regular expression looks for any words that starts with an upper case "S":

import re

str = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.search(r"\bS\w+", str)
print(x.span())
Run example »

Example

Print the string passed into the function:

import re

str = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.search(r"\bS\w+", str)
print(x.string)
Run example »

Example

Print the part of the string where there was a match.

The regular expression looks for any words that starts with an upper case "S":

import re

str = "The rain in Spain"
x = re.search(r"\bS\w+", str)
print(x.group())
Run example »

Note: If there are no match, the value None will be returned, instead of the Match Object.