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


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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 $@;


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