FAQ 6.24 How do I match a regular expression that's in a variable?

Discussion in 'Perl Misc' started by PerlFAQ Server, Apr 19, 2011.

  1. This is an excerpt from the latest version perlfaq6.pod, which
    comes with the standard Perl distribution. These postings aim to
    reduce the number of repeated questions as well as allow the community
    to review and update the answers. The latest version of the complete
    perlfaq is at http://faq.perl.org .


    6.24: How do I match a regular expression that's in a variable?

    (contributed by brian d foy)

    We don't have to hard-code patterns into the match operator (or anything
    else that works with regular expressions). We can put the pattern in a
    variable for later use.

    The match operator is a double quote context, so you can interpolate
    your variable just like a double quoted string. In this case, you read
    the regular expression as user input and store it in $regex. Once you
    have the pattern in $regex, you use that variable in the match operator.

    chomp( my $regex = <STDIN> );

    if( $string =~ m/$regex/ ) { ... }

    Any regular expression special characters in $regex are still special,
    and the pattern still has to be valid or Perl will complain. For
    instance, in this pattern there is an unpaired parenthesis.

    my $regex = "Unmatched ( paren";

    "Two parens to bind them all" =~ m/$regex/;

    When Perl compiles the regular expression, it treats the parenthesis as
    the start of a memory match. When it doesn't find the closing
    parenthesis, it complains:

    Unmatched ( in regex; marked by <-- HERE in m/Unmatched ( <-- HERE paren/ at script line 3.

    You can get around this in several ways depending on our situation.
    First, if you don't want any of the characters in the string to be
    special, you can escape them with "quotemeta" before you use the string.

    chomp( my $regex = <STDIN> );
    $regex = quotemeta( $regex );

    if( $string =~ m/$regex/ ) { ... }

    You can also do this directly in the match operator using the "\Q" and
    "\E" sequences. The "\Q" tells Perl where to start escaping special
    characters, and the "\E" tells it where to stop (see perlop for more

    chomp( my $regex = <STDIN> );

    if( $string =~ m/\Q$regex\E/ ) { ... }

    Alternately, you can use "qr//", the regular expression quote operator
    (see perlop for more details). It quotes and perhaps compiles the
    pattern, and you can apply regular expression flags to the pattern.

    chomp( my $input = <STDIN> );

    my $regex = qr/$input/is;

    $string =~ m/$regex/ # same as m/$input/is;

    You might also want to trap any errors by wrapping an "eval" block
    around the whole thing.

    chomp( my $input = <STDIN> );

    eval {
    if( $string =~ m/\Q$input\E/ ) { ... }
    warn $@ if $@;


    my $regex = eval { qr/$input/is };
    if( defined $regex ) {
    $string =~ m/$regex/;
    else {
    warn $@;


    The perlfaq-workers, a group of volunteers, maintain the perlfaq. They
    are not necessarily experts in every domain where Perl might show up,
    so please include as much information as possible and relevant in any
    corrections. The perlfaq-workers also don't have access to every
    operating system or platform, so please include relevant details for
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    Working code is greatly appreciated.

    If you'd like to help maintain the perlfaq, see the details in
    PerlFAQ Server, Apr 19, 2011
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