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pcrepattern


PCRE REGULAR EXPRESSION DETAILS


       The  syntax and semantics of the regular expressions that are supported
       by PCRE are described in detail below. There is a quick-reference  syn-
       tax summary in the pcresyntax page. PCRE tries to match Perl syntax and
       semantics as closely as it can. PCRE  also  supports  some  alternative
       regular  expression  syntax (which does not conflict with the Perl syn-
       tax) in order to provide some compatibility with regular expressions in
       Python, .NET, and Oniguruma.

       Perl's  regular expressions are described in its own documentation, and
       regular expressions in general are covered in a number of  books,  some
       of  which  have  copious  examples. Jeffrey Friedl's "Mastering Regular
       Expressions", published by  O'Reilly,  covers  regular  expressions  in
       great  detail.  This  description  of  PCRE's  regular  expressions  is
       intended as reference material.

       The original operation of PCRE was on strings of  one-byte  characters.
       However,  there  is  now also support for UTF-8 strings in the original
       library, an extra library that supports  16-bit  and  UTF-16  character
       strings,  and a third library that supports 32-bit and UTF-32 character
       strings. To use these features, PCRE must be built to include appropri-
       ate  support. When using UTF strings you must either call the compiling
       function with the PCRE_UTF8, PCRE_UTF16, or PCRE_UTF32 option,  or  the
       pattern must start with one of these special sequences:

         (*UTF8)
         (*UTF16)
         (*UTF32)
         (*UTF)

       (*UTF)  is  a  generic  sequence  that  can  be  used  with  any of the
       libraries.  Starting a pattern with such a sequence  is  equivalent  to
       setting  the  relevant option. This feature is not Perl-compatible. How
       setting a UTF mode affects pattern matching  is  mentioned  in  several
       places  below.  There  is also a summary of features in the pcreunicode
       page.

       Another special sequence that may appear at the start of a  pattern  or
       in combination with (*UTF8), (*UTF16), (*UTF32) or (*UTF) is:

         (*UCP)

       This  has  the  same  effect  as setting the PCRE_UCP option: it causes
       sequences such as \d and \w to  use  Unicode  properties  to  determine
       character types, instead of recognizing only characters with codes less
       than 128 via a lookup table.

       If a pattern starts with (*NO_START_OPT), it has  the  same  effect  as
       setting the PCRE_NO_START_OPTIMIZE option either at compile or matching
       time. There are also some more of these special sequences that are con-
       cerned with the handling of newlines; they are described below.
       character code rather than ASCII or Unicode (typically a mainframe sys-
       tem).  In  the  sections below, character code values are ASCII or Uni-
       code; in an EBCDIC environment these characters may have different code
       values, and there are no code points greater than 255.


NEWLINE CONVENTIONS


       PCRE  supports five different conventions for indicating line breaks in
       strings: a single CR (carriage return) character, a  single  LF  (line-
       feed) character, the two-character sequence CRLF, any of the three pre-
       ceding, or any Unicode newline sequence. The pcreapi page  has  further
       discussion  about newlines, and shows how to set the newline convention
       in the options arguments for the compiling and matching functions.

       It is also possible to specify a newline convention by starting a  pat-
       tern string with one of the following five sequences:

         (*CR)        carriage return
         (*LF)        linefeed
         (*CRLF)      carriage return, followed by linefeed
         (*ANYCRLF)   any of the three above
         (*ANY)       all Unicode newline sequences

       These override the default and the options given to the compiling func-
       tion. For example, on a Unix system where LF  is  the  default  newline
       sequence, the pattern

         (*CR)a.b

       changes the convention to CR. That pattern matches "a\nb" because LF is
       no longer a newline. Note that these special settings,  which  are  not
       Perl-compatible,  are  recognized  only at the very start of a pattern,
       and that they must be in upper case.  If  more  than  one  of  them  is
       present, the last one is used.

       The  newline  convention affects where the circumflex and dollar asser-
       tions are true. It also affects the interpretation of the dot metachar-
       acter when PCRE_DOTALL is not set, and the behaviour of \N. However, it
       does not affect what the \R escape sequence matches. By  default,  this
       is  any Unicode newline sequence, for Perl compatibility. However, this
       can be changed; see the description of \R in the section entitled "New-
       line  sequences"  below.  A change of \R setting can be combined with a
       change of newline convention.


CHARACTERS AND METACHARACTERS


       A regular expression is a pattern that is  matched  against  a  subject
       string  from  left  to right. Most characters stand for themselves in a
       pattern, and match the corresponding characters in the  subject.  As  a
       trivial example, the pattern

         The quick brown fox

       but instead are interpreted in some special way.

       There are two different sets of metacharacters: those that  are  recog-
       nized  anywhere in the pattern except within square brackets, and those
       that are recognized within square brackets.  Outside  square  brackets,
       the metacharacters are as follows:

         \      general escape character with several uses
         ^      assert start of string (or line, in multiline mode)
         $      assert end of string (or line, in multiline mode)
         .      match any character except newline (by default)
         [      start character class definition
         |      start of alternative branch
         (      start subpattern
         )      end subpattern
         ?      extends the meaning of (
                also 0 or 1 quantifier
                also quantifier minimizer
         *      0 or more quantifier
         +      1 or more quantifier
                also "possessive quantifier"
         {      start min/max quantifier

       Part  of  a  pattern  that is in square brackets is called a "character
       class". In a character class the only metacharacters are:

         \      general escape character
         ^      negate the class, but only if the first character
         -      indicates character range
         [      POSIX character class (only if followed by POSIX
                  syntax)
         ]      terminates the character class

       The following sections describe the use of each of the metacharacters.


BACKSLASH


       The backslash character has several uses. Firstly, if it is followed by
       a character that is not a number or a letter, it takes away any special
       meaning that character may have. This use of  backslash  as  an  escape
       character applies both inside and outside character classes.

       For  example,  if  you want to match a * character, you write \* in the
       pattern.  This escaping action applies whether  or  not  the  following
       character  would  otherwise be interpreted as a metacharacter, so it is
       always safe to precede a non-alphanumeric  with  backslash  to  specify
       that  it stands for itself. In particular, if you want to match a back-
       slash, you write \\.

       In a UTF mode, only ASCII numbers and letters have any special  meaning
       after  a  backslash.  All  other characters (in particular, those whose
       codepoints are greater than 127) are treated as literals.

         \Qabc$xyz\E        abc$xyz        abc followed by the
                                             contents of $xyz
         \Qabc\$xyz\E       abc\$xyz       abc\$xyz
         \Qabc\E\$\Qxyz\E   abc$xyz        abc$xyz

       The \Q...\E sequence is recognized both inside  and  outside  character
       classes.   An  isolated \E that is not preceded by \Q is ignored. If \Q
       is not followed by \E later in the pattern, the literal  interpretation
       continues  to  the  end  of  the pattern (that is, \E is assumed at the
       end). If the isolated \Q is inside a character class,  this  causes  an
       error, because the character class is not terminated.

   Non-printing characters

       A second use of backslash provides a way of encoding non-printing char-
       acters in patterns in a visible manner. There is no restriction on  the
       appearance  of non-printing characters, apart from the binary zero that
       terminates a pattern, but when a pattern  is  being  prepared  by  text
       editing,  it  is  often  easier  to  use  one  of  the following escape
       sequences than the binary character it represents:

         \a        alarm, that is, the BEL character (hex 07)
         \cx       "control-x", where x is any ASCII character
         \e        escape (hex 1B)
         \f        form feed (hex 0C)
         \n        linefeed (hex 0A)
         \r        carriage return (hex 0D)
         \t        tab (hex 09)
         \ddd      character with octal code ddd, or back reference
         \xhh      character with hex code hh
         \x{hhh..} character with hex code hhh.. (non-JavaScript mode)
         \uhhhh    character with hex code hhhh (JavaScript mode only)

       The precise effect of \cx on ASCII characters is as follows: if x is  a
       lower  case  letter,  it  is converted to upper case. Then bit 6 of the
       character (hex 40) is inverted. Thus \cA to \cZ become hex 01 to hex 1A
       (A  is  41, Z is 5A), but \c{ becomes hex 3B ({ is 7B), and \c; becomes
       hex 7B (; is 3B). If the data item (byte or 16-bit value) following  \c
       has  a  value greater than 127, a compile-time error occurs. This locks
       out non-ASCII characters in all modes.

       The \c facility was designed for use with ASCII  characters,  but  with
       the  extension  to  Unicode it is even less useful than it once was. It
       is, however, recognized when PCRE is compiled  in  EBCDIC  mode,  where
       data  items  are always bytes. In this mode, all values are valid after
       \c. If the next character is a lower case letter, it  is  converted  to
       upper  case.  Then  the  0xc0  bits  of the byte are inverted. Thus \cA
       becomes hex 01, as in ASCII (A is C1), but because the  EBCDIC  letters
       are  disjoint,  \cZ becomes hex 29 (Z is E9), and other characters also
       generate different values.


       If characters other than hexadecimal digits appear between \x{  and  },
       or if there is no terminating }, this form of escape is not recognized.
       Instead, the initial \x will be  interpreted  as  a  basic  hexadecimal
       escape,  with  no  following  digits, giving a character whose value is
       zero.

       If the PCRE_JAVASCRIPT_COMPAT option is set, the interpretation  of  \x
       is  as  just described only when it is followed by two hexadecimal dig-
       its.  Otherwise, it matches a  literal  "x"  character.  In  JavaScript
       mode, support for code points greater than 256 is provided by \u, which
       must be followed by four hexadecimal digits;  otherwise  it  matches  a
       literal  "u"  character.  Character codes specified by \u in JavaScript
       mode are constrained in the same was as those specified by \x  in  non-
       JavaScript mode.

       Characters whose value is less than 256 can be defined by either of the
       two syntaxes for \x (or by \u in JavaScript mode). There is no  differ-
       ence in the way they are handled. For example, \xdc is exactly the same
       as \x{dc} (or \u00dc in JavaScript mode).

       After \0 up to two further octal digits are read. If  there  are  fewer
       than  two  digits,  just  those  that  are  present  are used. Thus the
       sequence \0\x\07 specifies two binary zeros followed by a BEL character
       (code  value 7). Make sure you supply two digits after the initial zero
       if the pattern character that follows is itself an octal digit.

       The handling of a backslash followed by a digit other than 0 is compli-
       cated.  Outside a character class, PCRE reads it and any following dig-
       its as a decimal number. If the number is less than  10,  or  if  there
       have been at least that many previous capturing left parentheses in the
       expression, the entire  sequence  is  taken  as  a  back  reference.  A
       description  of how this works is given later, following the discussion
       of parenthesized subpatterns.

       Inside a character class, or if the decimal number is  greater  than  9
       and  there have not been that many capturing subpatterns, PCRE re-reads
       up to three octal digits following the backslash, and uses them to gen-
       erate a data character. Any subsequent digits stand for themselves. The
       value of the character is constrained in the  same  way  as  characters
       specified in hexadecimal.  For example:

         \040   is another way of writing an ASCII space
         \40    is the same, provided there are fewer than 40
                   previous capturing subpatterns
         \7     is always a back reference
         \11    might be a back reference, or another way of
                   writing a tab
         \011   is always a tab
         \0113  is a tab followed by the character "3"
         \113   might be a back reference, otherwise the
                   character with octal code 113

       they are treated as  the  literal  characters  "B",  "R",  and  "X"  by
       default,  but cause an error if the PCRE_EXTRA option is set. Outside a
       character class, these sequences have different meanings.

   Unsupported escape sequences

       In Perl, the sequences \l, \L, \u, and \U are recognized by its  string
       handler  and  used  to  modify  the  case  of  following characters. By
       default, PCRE does not support these escape sequences. However, if  the
       PCRE_JAVASCRIPT_COMPAT  option  is set, \U matches a "U" character, and
       \u can be used to define a character by code point, as described in the
       previous section.

   Absolute and relative back references

       The  sequence  \g followed by an unsigned or a negative number, option-
       ally enclosed in braces, is an absolute or relative back  reference.  A
       named back reference can be coded as \g{name}. Back references are dis-
       cussed later, following the discussion of parenthesized subpatterns.

   Absolute and relative subroutine calls

       For compatibility with Oniguruma, the non-Perl syntax \g followed by  a
       name or a number enclosed either in angle brackets or single quotes, is
       an alternative syntax for referencing a subpattern as  a  "subroutine".
       Details  are  discussed  later.   Note  that  \g{...} (Perl syntax) and
       \g<...> (Oniguruma syntax) are not synonymous. The  former  is  a  back
       reference; the latter is a subroutine call.

   Generic character types

       Another use of backslash is for specifying generic character types:

         \d     any decimal digit
         \D     any character that is not a decimal digit
         \h     any horizontal white space character
         \H     any character that is not a horizontal white space character
         \s     any white space character
         \S     any character that is not a white space character
         \v     any vertical white space character
         \V     any character that is not a vertical white space character
         \w     any "word" character
         \W     any "non-word" character

       There is also the single sequence \N, which matches a non-newline char-
       acter.  This is the same as the "." metacharacter when  PCRE_DOTALL  is
       not  set.  Perl also uses \N to match characters by name; PCRE does not
       support this.

       Each pair of lower and upper case escape sequences partitions the  com-
       plete  set  of  characters  into two disjoint sets. Any given character
       matches one, and only one, of each pair. The sequences can appear  both
       specific  matching is taking place (see "Locale support" in the pcreapi
       page). For example, in a French locale such  as  "fr_FR"  in  Unix-like
       systems,  or "french" in Windows, some character codes greater than 128
       are used for accented letters, and these are then matched  by  \w.  The
       use of locales with Unicode is discouraged.

       By  default,  in  a  UTF  mode, characters with values greater than 128
       never match \d, \s, or \w, and always  match  \D,  \S,  and  \W.  These
       sequences  retain  their  original meanings from before UTF support was
       available, mainly for efficiency reasons. However, if PCRE is  compiled
       with  Unicode property support, and the PCRE_UCP option is set, the be-
       haviour is changed so that Unicode properties  are  used  to  determine
       character types, as follows:

         \d  any character that \p{Nd} matches (decimal digit)
         \s  any character that \p{Z} matches, plus HT, LF, FF, CR
         \w  any character that \p{L} or \p{N} matches, plus underscore

       The  upper case escapes match the inverse sets of characters. Note that
       \d matches only decimal digits, whereas \w matches any  Unicode  digit,
       as  well as any Unicode letter, and underscore. Note also that PCRE_UCP
       affects \b, and \B because they are defined in  terms  of  \w  and  \W.
       Matching these sequences is noticeably slower when PCRE_UCP is set.

       The  sequences  \h, \H, \v, and \V are features that were added to Perl
       at release 5.10. In contrast to the other sequences, which  match  only
       ASCII  characters  by  default,  these always match certain high-valued
       codepoints, whether or not PCRE_UCP is set. The horizontal space  char-
       acters are:

         U+0009     Horizontal tab (HT)
         U+0020     Space
         U+00A0     Non-break space
         U+1680     Ogham space mark
         U+180E     Mongolian vowel separator
         U+2000     En quad
         U+2001     Em quad
         U+2002     En space
         U+2003     Em space
         U+2004     Three-per-em space
         U+2005     Four-per-em space
         U+2006     Six-per-em space
         U+2007     Figure space
         U+2008     Punctuation space
         U+2009     Thin space
         U+200A     Hair space
         U+202F     Narrow no-break space
         U+205F     Medium mathematical space
         U+3000     Ideographic space

       The vertical space characters are:

       any  Unicode newline sequence. In 8-bit non-UTF-8 mode \R is equivalent
       to the following:

         (?>\r\n|\n|\x0b|\f|\r|\x85)

       This is an example of an "atomic group", details  of  which  are  given
       below.  This particular group matches either the two-character sequence
       CR followed by LF, or  one  of  the  single  characters  LF  (linefeed,
       U+000A),  VT  (vertical  tab, U+000B), FF (form feed, U+000C), CR (car-
       riage return, U+000D), or NEL (next line,  U+0085).  The  two-character
       sequence is treated as a single unit that cannot be split.

       In  other modes, two additional characters whose codepoints are greater
       than 255 are added: LS (line separator, U+2028) and PS (paragraph sepa-
       rator,  U+2029).   Unicode character property support is not needed for
       these characters to be recognized.

       It is possible to restrict \R to match only CR, LF, or CRLF (instead of
       the  complete  set  of  Unicode  line  endings)  by  setting the option
       PCRE_BSR_ANYCRLF either at compile time or when the pattern is matched.
       (BSR is an abbrevation for "backslash R".) This can be made the default
       when PCRE is built; if this is the case, the  other  behaviour  can  be
       requested  via  the  PCRE_BSR_UNICODE  option.   It is also possible to
       specify these settings by starting a pattern string  with  one  of  the
       following sequences:

         (*BSR_ANYCRLF)   CR, LF, or CRLF only
         (*BSR_UNICODE)   any Unicode newline sequence

       These override the default and the options given to the compiling func-
       tion, but they can themselves be  overridden  by  options  given  to  a
       matching  function.  Note  that  these  special settings, which are not
       Perl-compatible, are recognized only at the very start  of  a  pattern,
       and  that  they  must  be  in  upper  case. If more than one of them is
       present, the last one is used. They can be combined with  a  change  of
       newline convention; for example, a pattern can start with:

         (*ANY)(*BSR_ANYCRLF)

       They  can also be combined with the (*UTF8), (*UTF16), (*UTF32), (*UTF)
       or (*UCP) special sequences. Inside a character class, \R is treated as
       an  unrecognized  escape  sequence,  and  so  matches the letter "R" by
       default, but causes an error if PCRE_EXTRA is set.

   Unicode character properties

       When PCRE is built with Unicode character property support, three addi-
       tional  escape sequences that match characters with specific properties
       are available.  When in 8-bit non-UTF-8 mode, these  sequences  are  of
       course  limited  to  testing  characters whose codepoints are less than
       256, but they do work in this mode.  The extra escape sequences are:


         \p{Greek}
         \P{Han}

       Those  that are not part of an identified script are lumped together as
       "Common". The current list of scripts is:

       Arabic, Armenian, Avestan, Balinese, Bamum, Batak,  Bengali,  Bopomofo,
       Brahmi,  Braille, Buginese, Buhid, Canadian_Aboriginal, Carian, Chakma,
       Cham, Cherokee, Common, Coptic, Cuneiform, Cypriot, Cyrillic,  Deseret,
       Devanagari,   Egyptian_Hieroglyphs,   Ethiopic,  Georgian,  Glagolitic,
       Gothic, Greek, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Han, Hangul, Hanunoo, Hebrew,  Hira-
       gana,   Imperial_Aramaic,  Inherited,  Inscriptional_Pahlavi,  Inscrip-
       tional_Parthian,  Javanese,  Kaithi,   Kannada,   Katakana,   Kayah_Li,
       Kharoshthi,  Khmer,  Lao, Latin, Lepcha, Limbu, Linear_B, Lisu, Lycian,
       Lydian,    Malayalam,    Mandaic,    Meetei_Mayek,    Meroitic_Cursive,
       Meroitic_Hieroglyphs,   Miao,  Mongolian,  Myanmar,  New_Tai_Lue,  Nko,
       Ogham,   Old_Italic,   Old_Persian,   Old_South_Arabian,    Old_Turkic,
       Ol_Chiki,  Oriya, Osmanya, Phags_Pa, Phoenician, Rejang, Runic, Samari-
       tan, Saurashtra, Sharada, Shavian,  Sinhala,  Sora_Sompeng,  Sundanese,
       Syloti_Nagri,  Syriac,  Tagalog,  Tagbanwa, Tai_Le, Tai_Tham, Tai_Viet,
       Takri, Tamil, Telugu, Thaana, Thai, Tibetan, Tifinagh,  Ugaritic,  Vai,
       Yi.

       Each character has exactly one Unicode general category property, spec-
       ified by a two-letter abbreviation. For compatibility with Perl,  nega-
       tion  can  be  specified  by including a circumflex between the opening
       brace and the property name.  For  example,  \p{^Lu}  is  the  same  as
       \P{Lu}.

       If only one letter is specified with \p or \P, it includes all the gen-
       eral category properties that start with that letter. In this case,  in
       the  absence of negation, the curly brackets in the escape sequence are
       optional; these two examples have the same effect:

         \p{L}
         \pL

       The following general category property codes are supported:

         C     Other
         Cc    Control
         Cf    Format
         Cn    Unassigned
         Co    Private use
         Cs    Surrogate

         L     Letter
         Ll    Lower case letter
         Lm    Modifier letter
         Lo    Other letter
         Lt    Title case letter
         Pd    Dash punctuation
         Pe    Close punctuation
         Pf    Final punctuation
         Pi    Initial punctuation
         Po    Other punctuation
         Ps    Open punctuation

         S     Symbol
         Sc    Currency symbol
         Sk    Modifier symbol
         Sm    Mathematical symbol
         So    Other symbol

         Z     Separator
         Zl    Line separator
         Zp    Paragraph separator
         Zs    Space separator

       The special property L& is also supported: it matches a character  that
       has  the  Lu,  Ll, or Lt property, in other words, a letter that is not
       classified as a modifier or "other".

       The Cs (Surrogate) property applies only to  characters  in  the  range
       U+D800  to U+DFFF. Such characters are not valid in Unicode strings and
       so cannot be tested by PCRE, unless  UTF  validity  checking  has  been
       turned    off    (see    the    discussion    of    PCRE_NO_UTF8_CHECK,
       PCRE_NO_UTF16_CHECK and PCRE_NO_UTF32_CHECK in the pcreapi page).  Perl
       does not support the Cs property.

       The  long  synonyms  for  property  names  that  Perl supports (such as
       \p{Letter}) are not supported by PCRE, nor is it  permitted  to  prefix
       any of these properties with "Is".

       No character that is in the Unicode table has the Cn (unassigned) prop-
       erty.  Instead, this property is assumed for any code point that is not
       in the Unicode table.

       Specifying  caseless  matching  does not affect these escape sequences.
       For example, \p{Lu} always matches only upper case letters.

       Matching characters by Unicode property is not fast, because  PCRE  has
       to  do  a  multistage table lookup in order to find a character's prop-
       erty. That is why the traditional escape sequences such as \d and \w do
       not use Unicode properties in PCRE by default, though you can make them
       do so by setting the PCRE_UCP option or by starting  the  pattern  with
       (*UCP).

   Extended grapheme clusters

       The  \X  escape  matches  any number of Unicode characters that form an
       "extended grapheme cluster", and treats the sequence as an atomic group
       (see  below).   Up  to and including release 8.31, PCRE matched an ear-

       \X  always  matches  at least one character. Then it decides whether to
       add additional characters according to the following rules for ending a
       cluster:

       1. End at the end of the subject string.

       2.  Do not end between CR and LF; otherwise end after any control char-
       acter.

       3. Do not break Hangul (a Korean  script)  syllable  sequences.  Hangul
       characters  are of five types: L, V, T, LV, and LVT. An L character may
       be followed by an L, V, LV, or LVT character; an LV or V character  may
       be followed by a V or T character; an LVT or T character may be follwed
       only by a T character.

       4. Do not end before extending characters or spacing marks.  Characters
       with  the  "mark"  property  always have the "extend" grapheme breaking
       property.

       5. Do not end after prepend characters.

       6. Otherwise, end the cluster.

   PCRE's additional properties

       As well as the standard Unicode properties described above,  PCRE  sup-
       ports  four  more  that  make it possible to convert traditional escape
       sequences such as \w and \s to use Unicode properties. PCRE uses  these
       non-standard, non-Perl properties internally when PCRE_UCP is set. How-
       ever, they may also be used explicitly. These properties are:

         Xan   Any alphanumeric character
         Xps   Any POSIX space character
         Xsp   Any Perl space character
         Xwd   Any Perl "word" character

       Xan matches characters that have either the L (letter) or the  N  (num-
       ber)  property. Xps matches the characters tab, linefeed, vertical tab,
       form feed, or carriage return, and any other character that has  the  Z
       (separator) property.  Xsp is the same as Xps, except that vertical tab
       is excluded. Xwd matches the :qa same characters as  Xan,  plus  under-
       score.

   Resetting the match start

       The  escape sequence \K causes any previously matched characters not to
       be included in the final matched sequence. For example, the pattern:

         foo\Kbar

       matches "foobar", but reports that it has matched "bar".  This  feature

   Simple assertions

       The  final use of backslash is for certain simple assertions. An asser-
       tion specifies a condition that has to be met at a particular point  in
       a  match, without consuming any characters from the subject string. The
       use of subpatterns for more complicated assertions is described  below.
       The backslashed assertions are:

         \b     matches at a word boundary
         \B     matches when not at a word boundary
         \A     matches at the start of the subject
         \Z     matches at the end of the subject
                 also matches before a newline at the end of the subject
         \z     matches only at the end of the subject
         \G     matches at the first matching position in the subject

       Inside  a  character  class, \b has a different meaning; it matches the
       backspace character. If any other of  these  assertions  appears  in  a
       character  class, by default it matches the corresponding literal char-
       acter  (for  example,  \B  matches  the  letter  B).  However,  if  the
       PCRE_EXTRA  option is set, an "invalid escape sequence" error is gener-
       ated instead.

       A word boundary is a position in the subject string where  the  current
       character  and  the previous character do not both match \w or \W (i.e.
       one matches \w and the other matches \W), or the start or  end  of  the
       string  if  the  first or last character matches \w, respectively. In a
       UTF mode, the meanings of \w and \W  can  be  changed  by  setting  the
       PCRE_UCP  option. When this is done, it also affects \b and \B. Neither
       PCRE nor Perl has a separate "start of word" or "end of  word"  metase-
       quence.  However,  whatever follows \b normally determines which it is.
       For example, the fragment \ba matches "a" at the start of a word.

       The \A, \Z, and \z assertions differ from  the  traditional  circumflex
       and dollar (described in the next section) in that they only ever match
       at the very start and end of the subject string, whatever  options  are
       set.  Thus,  they are independent of multiline mode. These three asser-
       tions are not affected by the PCRE_NOTBOL or PCRE_NOTEOL options, which
       affect  only the behaviour of the circumflex and dollar metacharacters.
       However, if the startoffset argument of pcre_exec() is non-zero,  indi-
       cating that matching is to start at a point other than the beginning of
       the subject, \A can never match. The difference between \Z  and  \z  is
       that \Z matches before a newline at the end of the string as well as at
       the very end, whereas \z matches only at the end.

       The \G assertion is true only when the current matching position is  at
       the  start point of the match, as specified by the startoffset argument
       of pcre_exec(). It differs from \A when the  value  of  startoffset  is
       non-zero.  By calling pcre_exec() multiple times with appropriate argu-
       ments, you can mimic Perl's /g option, and it is in this kind of imple-
       mentation where \G can be useful.

       suming any characters from the subject string.

       Outside a character class, in the default matching mode, the circumflex
       character is an assertion that is true only  if  the  current  matching
       point  is  at the start of the subject string. If the startoffset argu-
       ment of pcre_exec() is non-zero, circumflex  can  never  match  if  the
       PCRE_MULTILINE  option  is  unset. Inside a character class, circumflex
       has an entirely different meaning (see below).

       Circumflex need not be the first character of the pattern if  a  number
       of  alternatives are involved, but it should be the first thing in each
       alternative in which it appears if the pattern is ever  to  match  that
       branch.  If all possible alternatives start with a circumflex, that is,
       if the pattern is constrained to match only at the start  of  the  sub-
       ject,  it  is  said  to be an "anchored" pattern. (There are also other
       constructs that can cause a pattern to be anchored.)

       The dollar character is an assertion that is true only if  the  current
       matching  point  is  at  the  end of the subject string, or immediately
       before a newline at the end of the string (by default). Note,  however,
       that  it  does  not  actually match the newline. Dollar need not be the
       last character of the pattern if a number of alternatives are involved,
       but  it should be the last item in any branch in which it appears. Dol-
       lar has no special meaning in a character class.

       The meaning of dollar can be changed so that it  matches  only  at  the
       very  end  of  the string, by setting the PCRE_DOLLAR_ENDONLY option at
       compile time. This does not affect the \Z assertion.

       The meanings of the circumflex and dollar characters are changed if the
       PCRE_MULTILINE  option  is  set.  When  this  is the case, a circumflex
       matches immediately after internal newlines as well as at the start  of
       the  subject  string.  It  does not match after a newline that ends the
       string. A dollar matches before any newlines in the string, as well  as
       at  the very end, when PCRE_MULTILINE is set. When newline is specified
       as the two-character sequence CRLF, isolated CR and  LF  characters  do
       not indicate newlines.

       For  example, the pattern /^abc$/ matches the subject string "def\nabc"
       (where \n represents a newline) in multiline mode, but  not  otherwise.
       Consequently,  patterns  that  are anchored in single line mode because
       all branches start with ^ are not anchored in  multiline  mode,  and  a
       match  for  circumflex  is  possible  when  the startoffset argument of
       pcre_exec() is non-zero. The PCRE_DOLLAR_ENDONLY option is  ignored  if
       PCRE_MULTILINE is set.

       Note  that  the sequences \A, \Z, and \z can be used to match the start
       and end of the subject in both modes, and if all branches of a  pattern
       start  with  \A it is always anchored, whether or not PCRE_MULTILINE is
       set.


FULL STOP (PERIOD, DOT) AND \N

       exception. If the two-character sequence CRLF is present in the subject
       string, it takes two dots to match it.

       The handling of dot is entirely independent of the handling of  circum-
       flex  and  dollar,  the  only relationship being that they both involve
       newlines. Dot has no special meaning in a character class.

       The escape sequence \N behaves like  a  dot,  except  that  it  is  not
       affected  by  the  PCRE_DOTALL  option.  In other words, it matches any
       character except one that signifies the end of a line. Perl  also  uses
       \N to match characters by name; PCRE does not support this.


MATCHING A SINGLE DATA UNIT


       Outside  a character class, the escape sequence \C matches any one data
       unit, whether or not a UTF mode is set. In the 8-bit library, one  data
       unit  is  one  byte;  in the 16-bit library it is a 16-bit unit; in the
       32-bit library it is a 32-bit unit. Unlike a  dot,  \C  always  matches
       line-ending  characters.  The  feature  is provided in Perl in order to
       match individual bytes in UTF-8 mode, but it is unclear how it can use-
       fully  be  used.  Because  \C breaks up characters into individual data
       units, matching one unit with \C in a UTF mode means that the  rest  of
       the string may start with a malformed UTF character. This has undefined
       results, because PCRE assumes that it is dealing with valid UTF strings
       (and  by  default  it checks this at the start of processing unless the
       PCRE_NO_UTF8_CHECK, PCRE_NO_UTF16_CHECK or  PCRE_NO_UTF32_CHECK  option
       is used).

       PCRE  does  not  allow \C to appear in lookbehind assertions (described
       below) in a UTF mode, because this would make it impossible  to  calcu-
       late the length of the lookbehind.

       In general, the \C escape sequence is best avoided. However, one way of
       using it that avoids the problem of malformed UTF characters is to  use
       a  lookahead to check the length of the next character, as in this pat-
       tern, which could be used with a UTF-8 string (ignore white  space  and
       line breaks):

         (?| (?=[\x00-\x7f])(\C) |
             (?=[\x80-\x{7ff}])(\C)(\C) |
             (?=[\x{800}-\x{ffff}])(\C)(\C)(\C) |
             (?=[\x{10000}-\x{1fffff}])(\C)(\C)(\C)(\C))

       A  group  that starts with (?| resets the capturing parentheses numbers
       in each alternative (see "Duplicate  Subpattern  Numbers"  below).  The
       assertions  at  the start of each branch check the next UTF-8 character
       for values whose encoding uses 1, 2, 3, or 4 bytes,  respectively.  The
       character's  individual bytes are then captured by the appropriate num-
       ber of groups.


SQUARE BRACKETS AND CHARACTER CLASSES


       it is not the first character, or escape it with a backslash.

       For example, the character class [aeiou] matches any lower case  vowel,
       while  [^aeiou]  matches  any character that is not a lower case vowel.
       Note that a circumflex is just a convenient notation for specifying the
       characters  that  are in the class by enumerating those that are not. A
       class that starts with a circumflex is not an assertion; it still  con-
       sumes  a  character  from the subject string, and therefore it fails if
       the current pointer is at the end of the string.

       In UTF-8 (UTF-16, UTF-32) mode, characters with values greater than 255
       (0xffff)  can be included in a class as a literal string of data units,
       or by using the \x{ escaping mechanism.

       When caseless matching is set, any letters in a  class  represent  both
       their  upper  case  and lower case versions, so for example, a caseless
       [aeiou] matches "A" as well as "a", and a caseless  [^aeiou]  does  not
       match  "A", whereas a caseful version would. In a UTF mode, PCRE always
       understands the concept of case for characters whose  values  are  less
       than  128, so caseless matching is always possible. For characters with
       higher values, the concept of case is supported  if  PCRE  is  compiled
       with  Unicode  property support, but not otherwise.  If you want to use
       caseless matching in a UTF mode for characters 128 and above, you  must
       ensure  that  PCRE is compiled with Unicode property support as well as
       with UTF support.

       Characters that might indicate line breaks are  never  treated  in  any
       special  way  when  matching  character  classes,  whatever line-ending
       sequence is in  use,  and  whatever  setting  of  the  PCRE_DOTALL  and
       PCRE_MULTILINE options is used. A class such as [^a] always matches one
       of these characters.

       The minus (hyphen) character can be used to specify a range of  charac-
       ters  in  a  character  class.  For  example,  [d-m] matches any letter
       between d and m, inclusive. If a  minus  character  is  required  in  a
       class,  it  must  be  escaped  with a backslash or appear in a position
       where it cannot be interpreted as indicating a range, typically as  the
       first or last character in the class.

       It is not possible to have the literal character "]" as the end charac-
       ter of a range. A pattern such as [W-]46] is interpreted as a class  of
       two  characters ("W" and "-") followed by a literal string "46]", so it
       would match "W46]" or "-46]". However, if the "]"  is  escaped  with  a
       backslash  it is interpreted as the end of range, so [W-\]46] is inter-
       preted as a class containing a range followed by two other  characters.
       The  octal or hexadecimal representation of "]" can also be used to end
       a range.

       Ranges operate in the collating sequence of character values. They  can
       also   be  used  for  characters  specified  numerically,  for  example
       [\000-\037]. Ranges can include any characters that are valid  for  the
       current mode.
       appear outside a character class, as described in the section  entitled
       "Generic character types" above. The escape sequence \b has a different
       meaning inside a character class; it matches the  backspace  character.
       The  sequences  \B,  \N,  \R, and \X are not special inside a character
       class. Like any other unrecognized escape sequences, they  are  treated
       as  the literal characters "B", "N", "R", and "X" by default, but cause
       an error if the PCRE_EXTRA option is set.

       A circumflex can conveniently be used with  the  upper  case  character
       types  to specify a more restricted set of characters than the matching
       lower case type.  For example, the class [^\W_] matches any  letter  or
       digit, but not underscore, whereas [\w] includes underscore. A positive
       character class should be read as "something OR something OR ..." and a
       negative class as "NOT something AND NOT something AND NOT ...".

       The  only  metacharacters  that are recognized in character classes are
       backslash, hyphen (only where it can be  interpreted  as  specifying  a
       range),  circumflex  (only  at the start), opening square bracket (only
       when it can be interpreted as introducing a POSIX class name - see  the
       next  section),  and  the  terminating closing square bracket. However,
       escaping other non-alphanumeric characters does no harm.


POSIX CHARACTER CLASSES


       Perl supports the POSIX notation for character classes. This uses names
       enclosed  by  [: and :] within the enclosing square brackets. PCRE also
       supports this notation. For example,

         [01[:alpha:]%]

       matches "0", "1", any alphabetic character, or "%". The supported class
       names are:

         alnum    letters and digits
         alpha    letters
         ascii    character codes 0 - 127
         blank    space or tab only
         cntrl    control characters
         digit    decimal digits (same as \d)
         graph    printing characters, excluding space
         lower    lower case letters
         print    printing characters, including space
         punct    printing characters, excluding letters and digits and space
         space    white space (not quite the same as \s)
         upper    upper case letters
         word     "word" characters (same as \w)
         xdigit   hexadecimal digits

       The  "space" characters are HT (9), LF (10), VT (11), FF (12), CR (13),
       and space (32). Notice that this list includes the VT  character  (code
       11). This makes "space" different to \s, which does not include VT (for
       Perl compatibility).
       that Unicode character properties are used. This is achieved by replac-
       ing certain POSIX classes by other sequences, as follows:

         [:alnum:]  becomes  \p{Xan}
         [:alpha:]  becomes  \p{L}
         [:blank:]  becomes  \h
         [:digit:]  becomes  \p{Nd}
         [:lower:]  becomes  \p{Ll}
         [:space:]  becomes  \p{Xps}
         [:upper:]  becomes  \p{Lu}
         [:word:]   becomes  \p{Xwd}

       Negated versions, such as [:^alpha:] use \P instead of \p. Three  other
       POSIX classes are handled specially in UCP mode:

       [:graph:] This  matches  characters that have glyphs that mark the page
                 when printed. In Unicode property terms, it matches all char-
                 acters with the L, M, N, P, S, or Cf properties, except for:

                   U+061C           Arabic Letter Mark
                   U+180E           Mongolian Vowel Separator
                   U+2066 - U+2069  Various "isolate"s

       [:print:] This  matches  the  same  characters  as [:graph:] plus space
                 characters that are not controls, that  is,  characters  with
                 the Zs property.

       [:punct:] This matches all characters that have the Unicode P (punctua-
                 tion) property, plus those characters whose code  points  are
                 less than 128 that have the S (Symbol) property.

       The  other  POSIX classes are unchanged, and match only characters with
       code points less than 128.


VERTICAL BAR


       Vertical bar characters are used to separate alternative patterns.  For
       example, the pattern

         gilbert|sullivan

       matches  either "gilbert" or "sullivan". Any number of alternatives may
       appear, and an empty  alternative  is  permitted  (matching  the  empty
       string). The matching process tries each alternative in turn, from left
       to right, and the first one that succeeds is used. If the  alternatives
       are  within a subpattern (defined below), "succeeds" means matching the
       rest of the main pattern as well as the alternative in the subpattern.


INTERNAL OPTION SETTING


       The settings of the  PCRE_CASELESS,  PCRE_MULTILINE,  PCRE_DOTALL,  and
       hyphen, the option is unset.

       The PCRE-specific options PCRE_DUPNAMES, PCRE_UNGREEDY, and  PCRE_EXTRA
       can  be changed in the same way as the Perl-compatible options by using
       the characters J, U and X respectively.

       When one of these option changes occurs at  top  level  (that  is,  not
       inside  subpattern parentheses), the change applies to the remainder of
       the pattern that follows. If the change is placed right at the start of
       a pattern, PCRE extracts it into the global options (and it will there-
       fore show up in data extracted by the pcre_fullinfo() function).

       An option change within a subpattern (see below for  a  description  of
       subpatterns)  affects only that part of the subpattern that follows it,
       so

         (a(?i)b)c

       matches abc and aBc and no other strings (assuming PCRE_CASELESS is not
       used).   By  this means, options can be made to have different settings
       in different parts of the pattern. Any changes made in one  alternative
       do  carry  on  into subsequent branches within the same subpattern. For
       example,

         (a(?i)b|c)

       matches "ab", "aB", "c", and "C", even though  when  matching  "C"  the
       first  branch  is  abandoned before the option setting. This is because
       the effects of option settings happen at compile time. There  would  be
       some very weird behaviour otherwise.

       Note:  There  are  other  PCRE-specific  options that can be set by the
       application when the compiling or matching  functions  are  called.  In
       some  cases  the  pattern can contain special leading sequences such as
       (*CRLF) to override what the application  has  set  or  what  has  been
       defaulted.   Details   are  given  in  the  section  entitled  "Newline
       sequences" above. There are also the  (*UTF8),  (*UTF16),(*UTF32),  and
       (*UCP)  leading sequences that can be used to set UTF and Unicode prop-
       erty modes; they are equivalent to setting the  PCRE_UTF8,  PCRE_UTF16,
       PCRE_UTF32  and the PCRE_UCP options, respectively. The (*UTF) sequence
       is a generic version that can be used with any of the libraries.


SUBPATTERNS


       Subpatterns are delimited by parentheses (round brackets), which can be
       nested.  Turning part of a pattern into a subpattern does two things:

       1. It localizes a set of alternatives. For example, the pattern

         cat(aract|erpillar|)

       matches  "cataract",  "caterpillar", or "cat". Without the parentheses,

       the captured substrings are "red king", "red", and "king", and are num-
       bered 1, 2, and 3, respectively.

       The fact that plain parentheses fulfil  two  functions  is  not  always
       helpful.   There are often times when a grouping subpattern is required
       without a capturing requirement. If an opening parenthesis is  followed
       by  a question mark and a colon, the subpattern does not do any captur-
       ing, and is not counted when computing the  number  of  any  subsequent
       capturing  subpatterns. For example, if the string "the white queen" is
       matched against the pattern

         the ((?:red|white) (king|queen))

       the captured substrings are "white queen" and "queen", and are numbered
       1 and 2. The maximum number of capturing subpatterns is 65535.

       As  a  convenient shorthand, if any option settings are required at the
       start of a non-capturing subpattern,  the  option  letters  may  appear
       between the "?" and the ":". Thus the two patterns

         (?i:saturday|sunday)
         (?:(?i)saturday|sunday)

       match exactly the same set of strings. Because alternative branches are
       tried from left to right, and options are not reset until  the  end  of
       the  subpattern is reached, an option setting in one branch does affect
       subsequent branches, so the above patterns match "SUNDAY"  as  well  as
       "Saturday".


DUPLICATE SUBPATTERN NUMBERS


       Perl 5.10 introduced a feature whereby each alternative in a subpattern
       uses the same numbers for its capturing parentheses. Such a  subpattern
       starts  with (?| and is itself a non-capturing subpattern. For example,
       consider this pattern:

         (?|(Sat)ur|(Sun))day

       Because the two alternatives are inside a (?| group, both sets of  cap-
       turing  parentheses  are  numbered one. Thus, when the pattern matches,
       you can look at captured substring number  one,  whichever  alternative
       matched.  This  construct  is useful when you want to capture part, but
       not all, of one of a number of alternatives. Inside a (?| group, paren-
       theses  are  numbered as usual, but the number is reset at the start of
       each branch. The numbers of any capturing parentheses that  follow  the
       subpattern  start after the highest number used in any branch. The fol-
       lowing example is taken from the Perl documentation. The numbers under-
       neath show in which buffer the captured content will be stored.

         # before  ---------------branch-reset----------- after
         / ( a )  (?| x ( y ) z | (p (q) r) | (t) u (v) ) ( z ) /x

       If  a condition test for a subpattern's having matched refers to a non-
       unique number, the test is true if any of the subpatterns of that  num-
       ber have matched.

       An  alternative approach to using this "branch reset" feature is to use
       duplicate named subpatterns, as described in the next section.


NAMED SUBPATTERNS


       Identifying capturing parentheses by number is simple, but  it  can  be
       very  hard  to keep track of the numbers in complicated regular expres-
       sions. Furthermore, if an  expression  is  modified,  the  numbers  may
       change.  To help with this difficulty, PCRE supports the naming of sub-
       patterns. This feature was not added to Perl until release 5.10. Python
       had  the  feature earlier, and PCRE introduced it at release 4.0, using
       the Python syntax. PCRE now supports both the Perl and the Python  syn-
       tax.  Perl  allows  identically  numbered subpatterns to have different
       names, but PCRE does not.

       In PCRE, a subpattern can be named in one of three  ways:  (?<name>...)
       or  (?'name'...)  as in Perl, or (?P<name>...) as in Python. References
       to capturing parentheses from other parts of the pattern, such as  back
       references,  recursion,  and conditions, can be made by name as well as
       by number.

       Names consist of up to  32  alphanumeric  characters  and  underscores.
       Named  capturing  parentheses  are  still  allocated numbers as well as
       names, exactly as if the names were not present. The PCRE API  provides
       function calls for extracting the name-to-number translation table from
       a compiled pattern. There is also a convenience function for extracting
       a captured substring by name.

       By  default, a name must be unique within a pattern, but it is possible
       to relax this constraint by setting the PCRE_DUPNAMES option at compile
       time.  (Duplicate  names are also always permitted for subpatterns with
       the same number, set up as described in the previous  section.)  Dupli-
       cate  names  can  be useful for patterns where only one instance of the
       named parentheses can match. Suppose you want to match the  name  of  a
       weekday,  either as a 3-letter abbreviation or as the full name, and in
       both cases you want to extract the abbreviation. This pattern (ignoring
       the line breaks) does the job:

         (?<DN>Mon|Fri|Sun)(?:day)?|
         (?<DN>Tue)(?:sday)?|
         (?<DN>Wed)(?:nesday)?|
         (?<DN>Thu)(?:rsday)?|
         (?<DN>Sat)(?:urday)?

       There  are  five capturing substrings, but only one is ever set after a
       match.  (An alternative way of solving this problem is to use a "branch
       reset" subpattern, as described in the previous section.)

       the interfaces for handling named subpatterns, see the pcreapi documen-
       tation.

       Warning: You cannot use different names to distinguish between two sub-
       patterns  with  the same number because PCRE uses only the numbers when
       matching. For this reason, an error is given at compile time if differ-
       ent  names  are given to subpatterns with the same number. However, you
       can give the same name to subpatterns with the same number,  even  when
       PCRE_DUPNAMES is not set.


REPETITION


       Repetition  is  specified  by  quantifiers, which can follow any of the
       following items:

         a literal data character
         the dot metacharacter
         the \C escape sequence
         the \X escape sequence
         the \R escape sequence
         an escape such as \d or \pL that matches a single character
         a character class
         a back reference (see next section)
         a parenthesized subpattern (including assertions)
         a subroutine call to a subpattern (recursive or otherwise)

       The general repetition quantifier specifies a minimum and maximum  num-
       ber  of  permitted matches, by giving the two numbers in curly brackets
       (braces), separated by a comma. The numbers must be  less  than  65536,
       and the first must be less than or equal to the second. For example:

         z{2,4}

       matches  "zz",  "zzz",  or  "zzzz". A closing brace on its own is not a
       special character. If the second number is omitted, but  the  comma  is
       present,  there  is  no upper limit; if the second number and the comma
       are both omitted, the quantifier specifies an exact number of  required
       matches. Thus

         [aeiou]{3,}

       matches at least 3 successive vowels, but may match many more, while

         \d{8}

       matches  exactly  8  digits. An opening curly bracket that appears in a
       position where a quantifier is not allowed, or one that does not  match
       the  syntax of a quantifier, is taken as a literal character. For exam-
       ple, {,6} is not a quantifier, but a literal string of four characters.

       In UTF modes, quantifiers apply to characters rather than to individual
       data  units. Thus, for example, \x{100}{2} matches two characters, each

         *    is equivalent to {0,}
         +    is equivalent to {1,}
         ?    is equivalent to {0,1}

       It  is  possible  to construct infinite loops by following a subpattern
       that can match no characters with a quantifier that has no upper limit,
       for example:

         (a?)*

       Earlier versions of Perl and PCRE used to give an error at compile time
       for such patterns. However, because there are cases where this  can  be
       useful,  such  patterns  are now accepted, but if any repetition of the
       subpattern does in fact match no characters, the loop is forcibly  bro-
       ken.

       By  default,  the quantifiers are "greedy", that is, they match as much
       as possible (up to the maximum  number  of  permitted  times),  without
       causing  the  rest of the pattern to fail. The classic example of where
       this gives problems is in trying to match comments in C programs. These
       appear  between  /*  and  */ and within the comment, individual * and /
       characters may appear. An attempt to match C comments by  applying  the
       pattern

         /\*.*\*/

       to the string

         /* first comment */  not comment  /* second comment */

       fails,  because it matches the entire string owing to the greediness of
       the .*  item.

       However, if a quantifier is followed by a question mark, it  ceases  to
       be greedy, and instead matches the minimum number of times possible, so
       the pattern

         /\*.*?\*/

       does the right thing with the C comments. The meaning  of  the  various
       quantifiers  is  not  otherwise  changed,  just the preferred number of
       matches.  Do not confuse this use of question mark with its  use  as  a
       quantifier  in its own right. Because it has two uses, it can sometimes
       appear doubled, as in

         \d??\d

       which matches one digit by preference, but can match two if that is the
       only way the rest of the pattern matches.

       If  the PCRE_UNGREEDY option is set (an option that is not available in
       first. PCRE normally treats such a pattern as though it  were  preceded
       by \A.

       In  cases  where  it  is known that the subject string contains no new-
       lines, it is worth setting PCRE_DOTALL in order to  obtain  this  opti-
       mization, or alternatively using ^ to indicate anchoring explicitly.

       However,  there  are  some cases where the optimization cannot be used.
       When .*  is inside capturing parentheses that are the subject of a back
       reference elsewhere in the pattern, a match at the start may fail where
       a later one succeeds. Consider, for example:

         (.*)abc\1

       If the subject is "xyz123abc123" the match point is the fourth  charac-
       ter. For this reason, such a pattern is not implicitly anchored.

       Another  case where implicit anchoring is not applied is when the lead-
       ing .* is inside an atomic group. Once again, a match at the start  may
       fail where a later one succeeds. Consider this pattern:

         (?>.*?a)b

       It  matches "ab" in the subject "aab". The use of the backtracking con-
       trol verbs (*PRUNE) and (*SKIP) also disable this optimization.

       When a capturing subpattern is repeated, the value captured is the sub-
       string that matched the final iteration. For example, after

         (tweedle[dume]{3}\s*)+

       has matched "tweedledum tweedledee" the value of the captured substring
       is "tweedledee". However, if there are  nested  capturing  subpatterns,
       the  corresponding captured values may have been set in previous itera-
       tions. For example, after

         /(a|(b))+/

       matches "aba" the value of the second captured substring is "b".


ATOMIC GROUPING AND POSSESSIVE QUANTIFIERS


       With both maximizing ("greedy") and minimizing ("ungreedy"  or  "lazy")
       repetition,  failure  of what follows normally causes the repeated item
       to be re-evaluated to see if a different number of repeats  allows  the
       rest  of  the pattern to match. Sometimes it is useful to prevent this,
       either to change the nature of the match, or to cause it  fail  earlier
       than  it otherwise might, when the author of the pattern knows there is
       no point in carrying on.

       Consider, for example, the pattern \d+foo when applied to  the  subject
       line
         (?>\d+)foo

       This kind of parenthesis "locks up" the  part of the  pattern  it  con-
       tains  once  it  has matched, and a failure further into the pattern is
       prevented from backtracking into it. Backtracking past it  to  previous
       items, however, works as normal.

       An  alternative  description  is that a subpattern of this type matches
       the string of characters that an  identical  standalone  pattern  would
       match, if anchored at the current point in the subject string.

       Atomic grouping subpatterns are not capturing subpatterns. Simple cases
       such as the above example can be thought of as a maximizing repeat that
       must  swallow  everything  it can. So, while both \d+ and \d+? are pre-
       pared to adjust the number of digits they match in order  to  make  the
       rest of the pattern match, (?>\d+) can only match an entire sequence of
       digits.

       Atomic groups in general can of course contain arbitrarily  complicated
       subpatterns,  and  can  be  nested. However, when the subpattern for an
       atomic group is just a single repeated item, as in the example above, a
       simpler  notation,  called  a "possessive quantifier" can be used. This
       consists of an additional + character  following  a  quantifier.  Using
       this notation, the previous example can be rewritten as

         \d++foo

       Note that a possessive quantifier can be used with an entire group, for
       example:

         (abc|xyz){2,3}+

       Possessive  quantifiers  are  always  greedy;  the   setting   of   the
       PCRE_UNGREEDY option is ignored. They are a convenient notation for the
       simpler forms of atomic group. However, there is no difference  in  the
       meaning  of  a  possessive  quantifier and the equivalent atomic group,
       though there may be a performance  difference;  possessive  quantifiers
       should be slightly faster.

       The  possessive  quantifier syntax is an extension to the Perl 5.8 syn-
       tax.  Jeffrey Friedl originated the idea (and the name)  in  the  first
       edition of his book. Mike McCloskey liked it, so implemented it when he
       built Sun's Java package, and PCRE copied it from there. It  ultimately
       found its way into Perl at release 5.10.

       PCRE has an optimization that automatically "possessifies" certain sim-
       ple pattern constructs. For example, the sequence  A+B  is  treated  as
       A++B  because  there is no point in backtracking into a sequence of A's
       when B must follow.

       When a pattern contains an unlimited repeat inside  a  subpattern  that
       can  itself  be  repeated  an  unlimited number of times, the use of an
       example uses [!?] rather than a single character at  the  end,  because
       both  PCRE  and  Perl have an optimization that allows for fast failure
       when a single character is used. They remember the last single  charac-
       ter  that  is required for a match, and fail early if it is not present
       in the string.) If the pattern is changed so that  it  uses  an  atomic
       group, like this:

         ((?>\D+)|<\d+>)*[!?]

       sequences of non-digits cannot be broken, and failure happens quickly.


BACK REFERENCES


       Outside a character class, a backslash followed by a digit greater than
       0 (and possibly further digits) is a back reference to a capturing sub-
       pattern  earlier  (that is, to its left) in the pattern, provided there
       have been that many previous capturing left parentheses.

       However, if the decimal number following the backslash is less than 10,
       it  is  always  taken  as a back reference, and causes an error only if
       there are not that many capturing left parentheses in the  entire  pat-
       tern.  In  other words, the parentheses that are referenced need not be
       to the left of the reference for numbers less than 10. A "forward  back
       reference"  of  this  type can make sense when a repetition is involved
       and the subpattern to the right has participated in an  earlier  itera-
       tion.

       It  is  not  possible to have a numerical "forward back reference" to a
       subpattern whose number is 10 or  more  using  this  syntax  because  a
       sequence  such  as  \50 is interpreted as a character defined in octal.
       See the subsection entitled "Non-printing characters" above for further
       details  of  the  handling of digits following a backslash. There is no
       such problem when named parentheses are used. A back reference  to  any
       subpattern is possible using named parentheses (see below).

       Another  way  of  avoiding  the ambiguity inherent in the use of digits
       following a backslash is to use the \g  escape  sequence.  This  escape
       must be followed by an unsigned number or a negative number, optionally
       enclosed in braces. These examples are all identical:

         (ring), \1
         (ring), \g1
         (ring), \g{1}

       An unsigned number specifies an absolute reference without the  ambigu-
       ity that is present in the older syntax. It is also useful when literal
       digits follow the reference. A negative number is a relative reference.
       Consider this example:

         (abc(def)ghi)\g{-1}

       The sequence \g{-1} is a reference to the most recently started captur-
       not "sense and responsibility". If caseful matching is in force at  the
       time  of the back reference, the case of letters is relevant. For exam-
       ple,

         ((?i)rah)\s+\1

       matches "rah rah" and "RAH RAH", but not "RAH  rah",  even  though  the
       original capturing subpattern is matched caselessly.

       There  are  several  different ways of writing back references to named
       subpatterns. The .NET syntax \k{name} and the Perl syntax  \k<name>  or
       \k'name'  are supported, as is the Python syntax (?P=name). Perl 5.10's
       unified back reference syntax, in which \g can be used for both numeric
       and  named  references,  is  also supported. We could rewrite the above
       example in any of the following ways:

         (?<p1>(?i)rah)\s+\k<p1>
         (?'p1'(?i)rah)\s+\k{p1}
         (?P<p1>(?i)rah)\s+(?P=p1)
         (?<p1>(?i)rah)\s+\g{p1}

       A subpattern that is referenced by  name  may  appear  in  the  pattern
       before or after the reference.

       There  may be more than one back reference to the same subpattern. If a
       subpattern has not actually been used in a particular match,  any  back
       references to it always fail by default. For example, the pattern

         (a|(bc))\2

       always  fails  if  it starts to match "a" rather than "bc". However, if
       the PCRE_JAVASCRIPT_COMPAT option is set at compile time, a back refer-
       ence to an unset value matches an empty string.

       Because  there may be many capturing parentheses in a pattern, all dig-
       its following a backslash are taken as part of a potential back  refer-
       ence  number.   If  the  pattern continues with a digit character, some
       delimiter must  be  used  to  terminate  the  back  reference.  If  the
       PCRE_EXTENDED  option  is  set, this can be white space. Otherwise, the
       \g{ syntax or an empty comment (see "Comments" below) can be used.

   Recursive back references

       A back reference that occurs inside the parentheses to which it  refers
       fails  when  the subpattern is first used, so, for example, (a\1) never
       matches.  However, such references can be useful inside  repeated  sub-
       patterns. For example, the pattern

         (a|b\1)+

       matches any number of "a"s and also "aba", "ababbaa" etc. At each iter-
       ation of the subpattern,  the  back  reference  matches  the  character
       The  simple  assertions  coded  as  \b, \B, \A, \G, \Z, \z, ^ and $ are
       described above.

       More complicated assertions are coded as  subpatterns.  There  are  two
       kinds:  those  that  look  ahead of the current position in the subject
       string, and those that look  behind  it.  An  assertion  subpattern  is
       matched  in  the  normal way, except that it does not cause the current
       matching position to be changed.

       Assertion subpatterns are not capturing subpatterns. If such an  asser-
       tion  contains  capturing  subpatterns within it, these are counted for
       the purposes of numbering the capturing subpatterns in the  whole  pat-
       tern.  However,  substring  capturing  is carried out only for positive
       assertions, because it does not make sense for negative assertions.

       For compatibility with Perl, assertion  subpatterns  may  be  repeated;
       though  it  makes  no sense to assert the same thing several times, the
       side effect of capturing parentheses may  occasionally  be  useful.  In
       practice, there only three cases:

       (1)  If  the  quantifier  is  {0}, the assertion is never obeyed during
       matching.  However, it may  contain  internal  capturing  parenthesized
       groups that are called from elsewhere via the subroutine mechanism.

       (2)  If quantifier is {0,n} where n is greater than zero, it is treated
       as if it were {0,1}. At run time, the rest  of  the  pattern  match  is
       tried with and without the assertion, the order depending on the greed-
       iness of the quantifier.

       (3) If the minimum repetition is greater than zero, the  quantifier  is
       ignored.   The  assertion  is  obeyed just once when encountered during
       matching.

   Lookahead assertions

       Lookahead assertions start with (?= for positive assertions and (?! for
       negative assertions. For example,

         \w+(?=;)

       matches  a word followed by a semicolon, but does not include the semi-
       colon in the match, and

         foo(?!bar)

       matches any occurrence of "foo" that is not  followed  by  "bar".  Note
       that the apparently similar pattern

         (?!foo)bar

       does  not  find  an  occurrence  of "bar" that is preceded by something
       other than "foo"; it finds any occurrence of "bar" whatsoever,  because
         (?<!foo)bar

       does  find  an  occurrence  of "bar" that is not preceded by "foo". The
       contents of a lookbehind assertion are restricted  such  that  all  the
       strings it matches must have a fixed length. However, if there are sev-
       eral top-level alternatives, they do not all  have  to  have  the  same
       fixed length. Thus

         (?<=bullock|donkey)

       is permitted, but

         (?<!dogs?|cats?)

       causes  an  error at compile time. Branches that match different length
       strings are permitted only at the top level of a lookbehind  assertion.
       This is an extension compared with Perl, which requires all branches to
       match the same length of string. An assertion such as

         (?<=ab(c|de))

       is not permitted, because its single top-level  branch  can  match  two
       different lengths, but it is acceptable to PCRE if rewritten to use two
       top-level branches:

         (?<=abc|abde)

       In some cases, the escape sequence \K (see above) can be  used  instead
       of a lookbehind assertion to get round the fixed-length restriction.

       The  implementation  of lookbehind assertions is, for each alternative,
       to temporarily move the current position back by the fixed  length  and
       then try to match. If there are insufficient characters before the cur-
       rent position, the assertion fails.

       In a UTF mode, PCRE does not allow the \C escape (which matches a  sin-
       gle  data  unit even in a UTF mode) to appear in lookbehind assertions,
       because it makes it impossible to calculate the length of  the  lookbe-
       hind.  The \X and \R escapes, which can match different numbers of data
       units, are also not permitted.

       "Subroutine" calls (see below) such as (?2) or (?&X) are  permitted  in
       lookbehinds,  as  long as the subpattern matches a fixed-length string.
       Recursion, however, is not supported.

       Possessive quantifiers can  be  used  in  conjunction  with  lookbehind
       assertions to specify efficient matching of fixed-length strings at the
       end of subject strings. Consider a simple pattern such as

         abcd$

       when applied to a long string that does  not  match.  Because  matching
       there  can  be  no backtracking for the .*+ item; it can match only the
       entire string. The subsequent lookbehind assertion does a  single  test
       on  the last four characters. If it fails, the match fails immediately.
       For long strings, this approach makes a significant difference  to  the
       processing time.

   Using multiple assertions

       Several assertions (of any sort) may occur in succession. For example,

         (?<=\d{3})(?<!999)foo

       matches  "foo" preceded by three digits that are not "999". Notice that
       each of the assertions is applied independently at the  same  point  in
       the  subject  string.  First  there  is a check that the previous three
       characters are all digits, and then there is  a  check  that  the  same
       three characters are not "999".  This pattern does not match "foo" pre-
       ceded by six characters, the first of which are  digits  and  the  last
       three  of  which  are not "999". For example, it doesn't match "123abc-
       foo". A pattern to do that is

         (?<=\d{3}...)(?<!999)foo

       This time the first assertion looks at the  preceding  six  characters,
       checking that the first three are digits, and then the second assertion
       checks that the preceding three characters are not "999".

       Assertions can be nested in any combination. For example,

         (?<=(?<!foo)bar)baz

       matches an occurrence of "baz" that is preceded by "bar" which in  turn
       is not preceded by "foo", while

         (?<=\d{3}(?!999)...)foo

       is  another pattern that matches "foo" preceded by three digits and any
       three characters that are not "999".


CONDITIONAL SUBPATTERNS


       It is possible to cause the matching process to obey a subpattern  con-
       ditionally  or to choose between two alternative subpatterns, depending
       on the result of an assertion, or whether a specific capturing  subpat-
       tern  has  already  been matched. The two possible forms of conditional
       subpattern are:

         (?(condition)yes-pattern)
         (?(condition)yes-pattern|no-pattern)

       If the condition is satisfied, the yes-pattern is used;  otherwise  the
       no-pattern  (if  present)  is used. If there are more than two alterna-
       If  the  text between the parentheses consists of a sequence of digits,
       the condition is true if a capturing subpattern of that number has pre-
       viously  matched.  If  there is more than one capturing subpattern with
       the same number (see the earlier  section  about  duplicate  subpattern
       numbers),  the condition is true if any of them have matched. An alter-
       native notation is to precede the digits with a plus or minus sign.  In
       this  case, the subpattern number is relative rather than absolute. The
       most recently opened parentheses can be referenced by (?(-1), the  next
       most  recent  by (?(-2), and so on. Inside loops it can also make sense
       to refer to subsequent groups. The next parentheses to be opened can be
       referenced  as (?(+1), and so on. (The value zero in any of these forms
       is not used; it provokes a compile-time error.)

       Consider the following pattern, which  contains  non-significant  white
       space to make it more readable (assume the PCRE_EXTENDED option) and to
       divide it into three parts for ease of discussion:

         ( \( )?    [^()]+    (?(1) \) )

       The first part matches an optional opening  parenthesis,  and  if  that
       character is present, sets it as the first captured substring. The sec-
       ond part matches one or more characters that are not  parentheses.  The
       third  part  is  a conditional subpattern that tests whether or not the
       first set of parentheses matched. If they  did,  that  is,  if  subject
       started  with an opening parenthesis, the condition is true, and so the
       yes-pattern is executed and a closing parenthesis is  required.  Other-
       wise,  since no-pattern is not present, the subpattern matches nothing.
       In other words, this pattern matches  a  sequence  of  non-parentheses,
       optionally enclosed in parentheses.

       If  you  were  embedding  this pattern in a larger one, you could use a
       relative reference:

         ...other stuff... ( \( )?    [^()]+    (?(-1) \) ) ...

       This makes the fragment independent of the parentheses  in  the  larger
       pattern.

   Checking for a used subpattern by name

       Perl  uses  the  syntax  (?(<name>)...) or (?('name')...) to test for a
       used subpattern by name. For compatibility  with  earlier  versions  of
       PCRE,  which  had this facility before Perl, the syntax (?(name)...) is
       also recognized. However, there is a possible ambiguity with this  syn-
       tax,  because  subpattern  names  may  consist entirely of digits. PCRE
       looks first for a named subpattern; if it cannot find one and the  name
       consists  entirely  of digits, PCRE looks for a subpattern of that num-
       ber, which must be greater than zero. Using subpattern names that  con-
       sist entirely of digits is not recommended.

       Rewriting the above example to use a named subpattern gives this:


       the condition is true if the most recent recursion is into a subpattern
       whose number or name is given. This condition does not check the entire
       recursion stack. If the name used in a condition  of  this  kind  is  a
       duplicate, the test is applied to all subpatterns of the same name, and
       is true if any one of them is the most recent recursion.

       At "top level", all these recursion test  conditions  are  false.   The
       syntax for recursive patterns is described below.

   Defining subpatterns for use by reference only

       If  the  condition  is  the string (DEFINE), and there is no subpattern
       with the name DEFINE, the condition is  always  false.  In  this  case,
       there  may  be  only  one  alternative  in the subpattern. It is always
       skipped if control reaches this point  in  the  pattern;  the  idea  of
       DEFINE  is that it can be used to define subroutines that can be refer-
       enced from elsewhere. (The use of subroutines is described below.)  For
       example,  a  pattern  to match an IPv4 address such as "192.168.23.245"
       could be written like this (ignore white space and line breaks):

         (?(DEFINE) (?<byte> 2[0-4]\d | 25[0-5] | 1\d\d | [1-9]?\d) )
         \b (?&byte) (\.(?&byte)){3} \b

       The first part of the pattern is a DEFINE group inside which a  another
       group  named "byte" is defined. This matches an individual component of
       an IPv4 address (a number less than 256). When  matching  takes  place,
       this  part  of  the pattern is skipped because DEFINE acts like a false
       condition. The rest of the pattern uses references to the  named  group
       to  match the four dot-separated components of an IPv4 address, insist-
       ing on a word boundary at each end.

   Assertion conditions

       If the condition is not in any of the above  formats,  it  must  be  an
       assertion.   This may be a positive or negative lookahead or lookbehind
       assertion. Consider  this  pattern,  again  containing  non-significant
       white space, and with the two alternatives on the second line:

         (?(?=[^a-z]*[a-z])
         \d{2}-[a-z]{3}-\d{2}  |  \d{2}-\d{2}-\d{2} )

       The  condition  is  a  positive  lookahead  assertion  that  matches an
       optional sequence of non-letters followed by a letter. In other  words,
       it  tests  for the presence of at least one letter in the subject. If a
       letter is found, the subject is matched against the first  alternative;
       otherwise  it  is  matched  against  the  second.  This pattern matches
       strings in one of the two forms dd-aaa-dd or dd-dd-dd,  where  aaa  are
       letters and dd are digits.


COMMENTS


       Note that the end of this type of comment is a literal newline sequence
       in the pattern; escape sequences that happen to represent a newline  do
       not  count.  For  example,  consider this pattern when PCRE_EXTENDED is
       set, and the default newline convention is in force:

         abc #comment \n still comment

       On encountering the # character, pcre_compile()  skips  along,  looking
       for  a newline in the pattern. The sequence \n is still literal at this
       stage, so it does not terminate the comment. Only an  actual  character
       with the code value 0x0a (the default newline) does so.


RECURSIVE PATTERNS


       Consider  the problem of matching a string in parentheses, allowing for
       unlimited nested parentheses. Without the use of  recursion,  the  best
       that  can  be  done  is  to use a pattern that matches up to some fixed
       depth of nesting. It is not possible to  handle  an  arbitrary  nesting
       depth.

       For some time, Perl has provided a facility that allows regular expres-
       sions to recurse (amongst other things). It does this by  interpolating
       Perl  code in the expression at run time, and the code can refer to the
       expression itself. A Perl pattern using code interpolation to solve the
       parentheses problem can be created like this:

         $re = qr{\( (?: (?>[^()]+) | (?p{$re}) )* \)}x;

       The (?p{...}) item interpolates Perl code at run time, and in this case
       refers recursively to the pattern in which it appears.

       Obviously, PCRE cannot support the interpolation of Perl code. Instead,
       it  supports  special  syntax  for recursion of the entire pattern, and
       also for individual subpattern recursion.  After  its  introduction  in
       PCRE  and  Python,  this  kind of recursion was subsequently introduced
       into Perl at release 5.10.

       A special item that consists of (? followed by a  number  greater  than
       zero  and  a  closing parenthesis is a recursive subroutine call of the
       subpattern of the given number, provided that  it  occurs  inside  that
       subpattern.  (If  not,  it is a non-recursive subroutine call, which is
       described in the next section.) The special item  (?R)  or  (?0)  is  a
       recursive call of the entire regular expression.

       This  PCRE  pattern  solves  the nested parentheses problem (assume the
       PCRE_EXTENDED option is set so that white space is ignored):

         \( ( [^()]++ | (?R) )* \)

       First it matches an opening parenthesis. Then it matches any number  of
       substrings  which  can  either  be  a sequence of non-parentheses, or a
       recursive match of the pattern itself (that is, a  correctly  parenthe-
       of (?1) in the pattern above you can write (?-2) to refer to the second
       most recently opened parentheses  preceding  the  recursion.  In  other
       words,  a  negative  number counts capturing parentheses leftwards from
       the point at which it is encountered.

       It is also possible to refer to  subsequently  opened  parentheses,  by
       writing  references  such  as (?+2). However, these cannot be recursive
       because the reference is not inside the  parentheses  that  are  refer-
       enced.  They are always non-recursive subroutine calls, as described in
       the next section.

       An alternative approach is to use named parentheses instead.  The  Perl
       syntax  for  this  is (?&name); PCRE's earlier syntax (?P>name) is also
       supported. We could rewrite the above example as follows:

         (?<pn> \( ( [^()]++ | (?&pn) )* \) )

       If there is more than one subpattern with the same name,  the  earliest
       one is used.

       This  particular  example pattern that we have been looking at contains
       nested unlimited repeats, and so the use of a possessive quantifier for
       matching strings of non-parentheses is important when applying the pat-
       tern to strings that do not match. For example, when  this  pattern  is
       applied to

         (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa()

       it  yields  "no  match" quickly. However, if a possessive quantifier is
       not used, the match runs for a very long time indeed because there  are
       so  many  different  ways the + and * repeats can carve up the subject,
       and all have to be tested before failure can be reported.

       At the end of a match, the values of capturing  parentheses  are  those
       from  the outermost level. If you want to obtain intermediate values, a
       callout function can be used (see below and the pcrecallout  documenta-
       tion). If the pattern above is matched against

         (ab(cd)ef)

       the  value  for  the  inner capturing parentheses (numbered 2) is "ef",
       which is the last value taken on at the top level. If a capturing  sub-
       pattern  is  not  matched at the top level, its final captured value is
       unset, even if it was (temporarily) set at a deeper  level  during  the
       matching process.

       If  there are more than 15 capturing parentheses in a pattern, PCRE has
       to obtain extra memory to store data during a recursion, which it  does
       by using pcre_malloc, freeing it via pcre_free afterwards. If no memory
       can be obtained, the match fails with the PCRE_ERROR_NOMEMORY error.

       Do not confuse the (?R) item with the condition (R),  which  tests  for
       In  PCRE (like Python, but unlike Perl), a recursive subpattern call is
       always treated as an atomic group. That is, once it has matched some of
       the subject string, it is never re-entered, even if it contains untried
       alternatives and there is a subsequent matching failure.  This  can  be
       illustrated  by the following pattern, which purports to match a palin-
       dromic string that contains an odd number of characters  (for  example,
       "a", "aba", "abcba", "abcdcba"):

         ^(.|(.)(?1)\2)$

       The idea is that it either matches a single character, or two identical
       characters surrounding a sub-palindrome. In Perl, this  pattern  works;
       in  PCRE  it  does  not if the pattern is longer than three characters.
       Consider the subject string "abcba":

       At the top level, the first character is matched, but as it is  not  at
       the end of the string, the first alternative fails; the second alterna-
       tive is taken and the recursion kicks in. The recursive call to subpat-
       tern  1  successfully  matches the next character ("b"). (Note that the
       beginning and end of line tests are not part of the recursion).

       Back at the top level, the next character ("c") is compared  with  what
       subpattern  2 matched, which was "a". This fails. Because the recursion
       is treated as an atomic group, there are now  no  backtracking  points,
       and  so  the  entire  match fails. (Perl is able, at this point, to re-
       enter the recursion and try the second alternative.)  However,  if  the
       pattern is written with the alternatives in the other order, things are
       different:

         ^((.)(?1)\2|.)$

       This time, the recursing alternative is tried first, and  continues  to
       recurse  until  it runs out of characters, at which point the recursion
       fails. But this time we do have  another  alternative  to  try  at  the
       higher  level.  That  is  the  big difference: in the previous case the
       remaining alternative is at a deeper recursion level, which PCRE cannot
       use.

       To  change  the pattern so that it matches all palindromic strings, not
       just those with an odd number of characters, it is tempting  to  change
       the pattern to this:

         ^((.)(?1)\2|.?)$

       Again,  this  works  in Perl, but not in PCRE, and for the same reason.
       When a deeper recursion has matched a single character,  it  cannot  be
       entered  again  in  order  to match an empty string. The solution is to
       separate the two cases, and write out the odd and even cases as  alter-
       natives at the higher level:

         ^(?:((.)(?1)\2|)|((.)(?3)\4|.))

       entire  string.  For example, although "abcba" is correctly matched, if
       the subject is "ababa", PCRE finds the palindrome "aba" at  the  start,
       then  fails at top level because the end of the string does not follow.
       Once again, it cannot jump back into the recursion to try other  alter-
       natives, so the entire match fails.

       The  second  way  in which PCRE and Perl differ in their recursion pro-
       cessing is in the handling of captured values. In Perl, when a  subpat-
       tern  is  called recursively or as a subpattern (see the next section),
       it has no access to any values that were captured  outside  the  recur-
       sion,  whereas  in  PCRE  these values can be referenced. Consider this
       pattern:

         ^(.)(\1|a(?2))

       In PCRE, this pattern matches "bab". The  first  capturing  parentheses
       match  "b",  then in the second group, when the back reference \1 fails
       to match "b", the second alternative matches "a" and then recurses.  In
       the  recursion,  \1 does now match "b" and so the whole match succeeds.
       In Perl, the pattern fails to match because inside the  recursive  call
       \1 cannot access the externally set value.


SUBPATTERNS AS SUBROUTINES


       If  the  syntax for a recursive subpattern call (either by number or by
       name) is used outside the parentheses to which it refers,  it  operates
       like  a subroutine in a programming language. The called subpattern may
       be defined before or after the reference. A numbered reference  can  be
       absolute or relative, as in these examples:

         (...(absolute)...)...(?2)...
         (...(relative)...)...(?-1)...
         (...(?+1)...(relative)...

       An earlier example pointed out that the pattern

         (sens|respons)e and \1ibility

       matches  "sense and sensibility" and "response and responsibility", but
       not "sense and responsibility". If instead the pattern

         (sens|respons)e and (?1)ibility

       is used, it does match "sense and responsibility" as well as the  other
       two  strings.  Another  example  is  given  in the discussion of DEFINE
       above.

       All subroutine calls, whether recursive or not, are always  treated  as
       atomic  groups. That is, once a subroutine has matched some of the sub-
       ject string, it is never re-entered, even if it contains untried alter-
       natives  and  there  is  a  subsequent  matching failure. Any capturing
       parentheses that are set during the subroutine  call  revert  to  their
       name or a number enclosed either in angle brackets or single quotes, is
       an alternative syntax for referencing a  subpattern  as  a  subroutine,
       possibly  recursively. Here are two of the examples used above, rewrit-
       ten using this syntax:

         (?<pn> \( ( (?>[^()]+) | \g<pn> )* \) )
         (sens|respons)e and \g'1'ibility

       PCRE supports an extension to Oniguruma: if a number is preceded  by  a
       plus or a minus sign it is taken as a relative reference. For example:

         (abc)(?i:\g<-1>)

       Note  that \g{...} (Perl syntax) and \g<...> (Oniguruma syntax) are not
       synonymous. The former is a back reference; the latter is a  subroutine
       call.


CALLOUTS


       Perl has a feature whereby using the sequence (?{...}) causes arbitrary
       Perl code to be obeyed in the middle of matching a regular  expression.
       This makes it possible, amongst other things, to extract different sub-
       strings that match the same pair of parentheses when there is a repeti-
       tion.

       PCRE provides a similar feature, but of course it cannot obey arbitrary
       Perl code. The feature is called "callout". The caller of PCRE provides
       an  external function by putting its entry point in the global variable
       pcre_callout (8-bit library) or pcre[16|32]_callout (16-bit  or  32-bit
       library).   By default, this variable contains NULL, which disables all
       calling out.

       Within a regular expression, (?C) indicates the  points  at  which  the
       external  function  is  to be called. If you want to identify different
       callout points, you can put a number less than 256 after the letter  C.
       The  default  value is zero.  For example, this pattern has two callout
       points:

         (?C1)abc(?C2)def

       If the PCRE_AUTO_CALLOUT flag is passed to a compiling function,  call-
       outs  are automatically installed before each item in the pattern. They
       are all numbered 255.

       During matching, when PCRE reaches a callout point, the external  func-
       tion  is  called.  It  is  provided with the number of the callout, the
       position in the pattern, and, optionally, one item of  data  originally
       supplied  by  the caller of the matching function. The callout function
       may cause matching to proceed, to backtrack, or to fail  altogether.  A
       complete  description of the interface to the callout function is given
       in the pcrecallout documentation.

       tion.

       If any of these verbs are used in an assertion or in a subpattern  that
       is called as a subroutine (whether or not recursively), their effect is
       confined to that subpattern; it does not extend to the surrounding pat-
       tern, with one exception: the name from a *(MARK), (*PRUNE), or (*THEN)
       that is encountered in a successful positive assertion is  passed  back
       when  a  match  succeeds (compare capturing parentheses in assertions).
       Note that such subpatterns are processed as anchored at the point where
       they  are  tested.  Note  also that Perl's treatment of subroutines and
       assertions is different in some cases.

       The new verbs make use of what was previously invalid syntax: an  open-
       ing parenthesis followed by an asterisk. They are generally of the form
       (*VERB) or (*VERB:NAME). Some may take either form, with differing  be-
       haviour,  depending on whether or not an argument is present. A name is
       any sequence of characters that does not include a closing parenthesis.
       The maximum length of name is 255 in the 8-bit library and 65535 in the
       16-bit and 32-bit library.  If the name is empty, that is, if the clos-
       ing  parenthesis immediately follows the colon, the effect is as if the
       colon were not there. Any number of these verbs may occur in a pattern.

   Optimizations that affect backtracking verbs

       PCRE contains some optimizations that are used to speed up matching  by
       running some checks at the start of each match attempt. For example, it
       may know the minimum length of matching subject, or that  a  particular
       character  must  be present. When one of these optimizations suppresses
       the running of a match, any included backtracking verbs  will  not,  of
       course, be processed. You can suppress the start-of-match optimizations
       by setting the PCRE_NO_START_OPTIMIZE  option  when  calling  pcre_com-
       pile() or pcre_exec(), or by starting the pattern with (*NO_START_OPT).
       There is more discussion of this option in the section entitled "Option
       bits for pcre_exec()" in the pcreapi documentation.

       Experiments  with  Perl  suggest that it too has similar optimizations,
       sometimes leading to anomalous results.

   Verbs that act immediately

       The following verbs act as soon as they are encountered. They  may  not
       be followed by a name.

          (*ACCEPT)

       This  verb causes the match to end successfully, skipping the remainder
       of the pattern. However, when it is inside a subpattern that is  called
       as  a  subroutine, only that subpattern is ended successfully. Matching
       then continues at the outer level. If  (*ACCEPT)  is  inside  capturing
       parentheses, the data so far is captured. For example:

         A((?:A|B(*ACCEPT)|C)D)

       A  match  with the string "aaaa" always fails, but the callout is taken
       before each backtrack happens (in this example, 10 times).

   Recording which path was taken

       There is one verb whose main purpose  is  to  track  how  a  match  was
       arrived  at,  though  it  also  has a secondary use in conjunction with
       advancing the match starting point (see (*SKIP) below).

         (*MARK:NAME) or (*:NAME)

       A name is always  required  with  this  verb.  There  may  be  as  many
       instances  of  (*MARK) as you like in a pattern, and their names do not
       have to be unique.

       When a match succeeds, the name of the last-encountered (*MARK) on  the
       matching  path is passed back to the caller as described in the section
       entitled "Extra data for pcre_exec()"  in  the  pcreapi  documentation.
       Here  is  an example of pcretest output, where the /K modifier requests
       the retrieval and outputting of (*MARK) data:

           re> /X(*MARK:A)Y|X(*MARK:B)Z/K
         data> XY
          0: XY
         MK: A
         XZ
          0: XZ
         MK: B

       The (*MARK) name is tagged with "MK:" in this output, and in this exam-
       ple  it indicates which of the two alternatives matched. This is a more
       efficient way of obtaining this information than putting each  alterna-
       tive in its own capturing parentheses.

       If (*MARK) is encountered in a positive assertion, its name is recorded
       and passed back if it is the last-encountered. This does not happen for
       negative assertions.

       After  a  partial match or a failed match, the name of the last encoun-
       tered (*MARK) in the entire match process is returned. For example:

           re> /X(*MARK:A)Y|X(*MARK:B)Z/K
         data> XP
         No match, mark = B

       Note that in this unanchored example the  mark  is  retained  from  the
       match attempt that started at the letter "X" in the subject. Subsequent
       match attempts starting at "P" and then with an empty string do not get
       as far as the (*MARK) item, but nevertheless do not reset it.

       If  you  are  interested  in  (*MARK)  values after failed matches, you

       These  verbs  differ  in exactly what kind of failure occurs when back-
       tracking reaches them.

         (*COMMIT)

       This verb, which may not be followed by a name, causes the whole  match
       to fail outright if the rest of the pattern does not match. Even if the
       pattern is unanchored, no further attempts to find a match by advancing
       the  starting  point  take  place.  Once  (*COMMIT)  has  been  passed,
       pcre_exec() is committed to finding a match  at  the  current  starting
       point, or not at all. For example:

         a+(*COMMIT)b

       This  matches  "xxaab" but not "aacaab". It can be thought of as a kind
       of dynamic anchor, or "I've started, so I must finish." The name of the
       most  recently passed (*MARK) in the path is passed back when (*COMMIT)
       forces a match failure.

       Note that (*COMMIT) at the start of a pattern is not  the  same  as  an
       anchor,  unless  PCRE's start-of-match optimizations are turned off, as
       shown in this pcretest example:

           re> /(*COMMIT)abc/
         data> xyzabc
          0: abc
         xyzabc\Y
         No match

       PCRE knows that any match must start  with  "a",  so  the  optimization
       skips  along the subject to "a" before running the first match attempt,
       which succeeds. When the optimization is disabled by the \Y  escape  in
       the second subject, the match starts at "x" and so the (*COMMIT) causes
       it to fail without trying any other starting points.

         (*PRUNE) or (*PRUNE:NAME)

       This verb causes the match to fail at the current starting position  in
       the  subject  if the rest of the pattern does not match. If the pattern
       is unanchored, the normal "bumpalong"  advance  to  the  next  starting
       character  then happens. Backtracking can occur as usual to the left of
       (*PRUNE), before it is reached,  or  when  matching  to  the  right  of
       (*PRUNE),  but  if  there is no match to the right, backtracking cannot
       cross (*PRUNE). In simple cases, the use of (*PRUNE) is just an  alter-
       native  to an atomic group or possessive quantifier, but there are some
       uses of (*PRUNE) that cannot be expressed in any other way.  The behav-
       iour  of  (*PRUNE:NAME)  is  the  same  as  (*MARK:NAME)(*PRUNE). In an
       anchored pattern (*PRUNE) has the same effect as (*COMMIT).

         (*SKIP)

       "c".

         (*SKIP:NAME)

       When (*SKIP) has an associated name, its behaviour is modified. If  the
       following pattern fails to match, the previous path through the pattern
       is searched for the most recent (*MARK) that has the same name. If  one
       is  found, the "bumpalong" advance is to the subject position that cor-
       responds to that (*MARK) instead of to where (*SKIP)  was  encountered.
       If no (*MARK) with a matching name is found, the (*SKIP) is ignored.

         (*THEN) or (*THEN:NAME)

       This  verb  causes a skip to the next innermost alternative if the rest
       of the pattern does not match. That is, it cancels  pending  backtrack-
       ing,  but  only within the current alternative. Its name comes from the
       observation that it can be used for a pattern-based if-then-else block:

         ( COND1 (*THEN) FOO | COND2 (*THEN) BAR | COND3 (*THEN) BAZ ) ...

       If the COND1 pattern matches, FOO is tried (and possibly further  items
       after  the  end  of the group if FOO succeeds); on failure, the matcher
       skips to the second alternative and tries COND2,  without  backtracking
       into  COND1.  The  behaviour  of  (*THEN:NAME)  is  exactly the same as
       (*MARK:NAME)(*THEN).  If (*THEN) is not inside an alternation, it  acts
       like (*PRUNE).

       Note  that  a  subpattern that does not contain a | character is just a
       part of the enclosing alternative; it is not a nested alternation  with
       only  one alternative. The effect of (*THEN) extends beyond such a sub-
       pattern to the enclosing alternative. Consider this pattern,  where  A,
       B, etc. are complex pattern fragments that do not contain any | charac-
       ters at this level:

         A (B(*THEN)C) | D

       If A and B are matched, but there is a failure in C, matching does  not
       backtrack into A; instead it moves to the next alternative, that is, D.
       However, if the subpattern containing (*THEN) is given an  alternative,
       it behaves differently:

         A (B(*THEN)C | (*FAIL)) | D

       The  effect of (*THEN) is now confined to the inner subpattern. After a
       failure in C, matching moves to (*FAIL), which causes the whole subpat-
       tern  to  fail  because  there are no more alternatives to try. In this
       case, matching does now backtrack into A.

       Note also that a conditional subpattern is not considered as having two
       alternatives,  because  only  one  is  ever used. In other words, the |
       character in a conditional subpattern has a different meaning. Ignoring
       white space, consider:
       match at the next alternative. (*PRUNE) comes next, failing  the  match
       at  the  current starting position, but allowing an advance to the next
       character (for an unanchored pattern). (*SKIP) is similar, except  that
       the advance may be more than one character. (*COMMIT) is the strongest,
       causing the entire match to fail.

       If more than one such verb is present in a pattern, the "strongest" one
       wins.  For example, consider this pattern, where A, B, etc. are complex
       pattern fragments:

         (A(*COMMIT)B(*THEN)C|D)

       Once A has matched, PCRE is committed to this  match,  at  the  current
       starting  position. If subsequently B matches, but C does not, the nor-
       mal (*THEN) action of trying the next alternative (that is, D) does not
       happen because (*COMMIT) overrides.


SEE ALSO


       pcreapi(3),  pcrecallout(3),  pcrematching(3),  pcresyntax(3), pcre(3),
       pcre16(3), pcre32(3).


AUTHOR


       Philip Hazel
       University Computing Service
       Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.


REVISION


       Last updated: 11 November 2012
       Copyright (c) 1997-2012 University of Cambridge.


PCRE 8.32 11 November 2012 PCREPATTERN(3)



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