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pcrepattern(3)                                                  pcrepattern(3)




NAME

       PCRE - Perl-compatible regular expressions


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.

       This document discusses the patterns that are supported  by  PCRE  when
       one    its    main   matching   functions,   pcre_exec()   (8-bit)   or
       pcre[16|32]_exec() (16- or 32-bit), is used. PCRE also has  alternative
       matching  functions,  pcre_dfa_exec()  and pcre[16|32_dfa_exec(), which
       match using a different algorithm that is not Perl-compatible. Some  of
       the  features  discussed  below  are not available when DFA matching is
       used. The advantages and disadvantages of  the  alternative  functions,
       and  how  they  differ  from the normal functions, are discussed in the
       pcrematching page.


SPECIAL START-OF-PATTERN ITEMS


       A number of options that can be passed to pcre_compile()  can  also  be
       set by special items at the start of a pattern. These are not Perl-com-
       patible, but are provided to make these options accessible  to  pattern
       writers  who are not able to change the program that processes the pat-
       tern. Any number of these items  may  appear,  but  they  must  all  be
       together right at the start of the pattern string, and the letters must
       be in upper case.

   UTF support

       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.  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.

       Some applications that allow their users to supply patterns may wish to
       restrict  them  to  non-UTF  data  for   security   reasons.   If   the
       PCRE_NEVER_UTF  option  is  set  at  compile  time, (*UTF) etc. are not
       allowed, and their appearance causes an error.

   Unicode property support

       Another special sequence that may appear at the start of a  pattern  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  deter-
       mine character types, instead of recognizing only characters with codes
       less than 128 via a lookup table.

   Disabling auto-possessification

       If a pattern starts with (*NO_AUTO_POSSESS), it has the same effect  as
       setting  the  PCRE_NO_AUTO_POSSESS  option  at compile time. This stops
       PCRE from making quantifiers possessive when what follows cannot  match
       the  repeated item. For example, by default a+b is treated as a++b. For
       more details, see the pcreapi documentation.

   Disabling start-up optimizations

       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. This disables several  optimizations  for  quickly  reaching  "no
       match" results. For more details, see the pcreapi documentation.

   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. If more than one of these settings 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.

   Setting match and recursion limits

       The caller of pcre_exec() can set a limit on the number  of  times  the
       internal  match() function is called and on the maximum depth of recur-
       sive calls. These facilities are provided to catch runaway matches that
       are provoked by patterns with huge matching trees (a typical example is
       a pattern with nested unlimited repeats) and to avoid  running  out  of
       system  stack  by  too  much  recursion.  When  one  of these limits is
       reached, pcre_exec() gives an error return. The limits can also be  set
       by items at the start of the pattern of the form

         (*LIMIT_MATCH=d)
         (*LIMIT_RECURSION=d)

       where d is any number of decimal digits. However, the value of the set-
       ting must be less than the value set (or defaulted) by  the  caller  of
       pcre_exec()  for  it  to  have  any effect. In other words, the pattern
       writer can lower the limits set by the programmer, but not raise  them.
       If  there  is  more  than one setting of one of these limits, the lower
       value is used.


EBCDIC CHARACTER CODES


       PCRE can be compiled to run in an environment that uses EBCDIC  as  its
       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.


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

       matches a portion of a subject string that is identical to itself. When
       caseless matching is specified (the PCRE_CASELESS option), letters  are
       matched  independently  of case. 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 val-
       ues, the concept of case is supported if PCRE is compiled with  Unicode
       property  support,  but  not  otherwise.   If  you want to use caseless
       matching for characters 128 and above, you must  ensure  that  PCRE  is
       compiled with Unicode property support as well as with UTF support.

       The  power  of  regular  expressions  comes from the ability to include
       alternatives and repetitions in the pattern. These are encoded  in  the
       pattern by the use of metacharacters, which do not stand for themselves
       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.

       If  a  pattern  is  compiled  with the PCRE_EXTENDED option, most white
       space in the pattern (other than in a character class), and  characters
       between  a # outside a character class and the next newline, inclusive,
       are ignored. An escaping backslash can be used to include a white space
       or # character as part of the pattern.

       If  you  want  to remove the special meaning from a sequence of charac-
       ters, you can do so by putting them between \Q and \E. This is  differ-
       ent  from  Perl  in  that  $  and  @ are handled as literals in \Q...\E
       sequences in PCRE, whereas in Perl, $ and @ cause  variable  interpola-
       tion. Note the following examples:

         Pattern            PCRE matches   Perl matches

         \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.  In an ASCII or Uni-
       code environment, these escapes are as follows:

         \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)
         \0dd      character with octal code 0dd
         \ddd      character with octal code ddd, or back reference
         \o{ddd..} character with octal code ddd..
         \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.

       When PCRE is compiled in EBCDIC mode, \a, \e, \f, \n, \r, and \t gener-
       ate  the  appropriate EBCDIC code values. The \c escape is processed as
       specified for Perl in the perlebcdic document. The only characters that
       are  allowed  after  \c are A-Z, a-z, or one of @, [, \, ], ^, _, or ?.
       Any other character provokes a compile-time  error.  The  sequence  \c@
       encodes  character code 0; after \c the letters (in either case) encode
       characters 1-26 (hex 01 to hex 1A); [, \, ], ^, and _ encode characters
       27-31  (hex  1B  to  hex 1F), and \c? becomes either 255 (hex FF) or 95
       (hex 5F).

       Thus, apart from \c?, these escapes generate the  same  character  code
       values  as  they do in an ASCII environment, though the meanings of the
       values mostly differ. For example, \cG always generates code  value  7,
       which is BEL in ASCII but DEL in EBCDIC.

       The  sequence  \c? generates DEL (127, hex 7F) in an ASCII environment,
       but because 127 is not a control character in  EBCDIC,  Perl  makes  it
       generate  the  APC character. Unfortunately, there are several variants
       of EBCDIC. In most of them the APC character has  the  value  255  (hex
       FF),  but  in  the one Perl calls POSIX-BC its value is 95 (hex 5F). If
       certain other characters have POSIX-BC values, PCRE makes \c?  generate
       95; otherwise it generates 255.

       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\015 specifies two binary zeros followed by a CR character
       (code value 13). Make sure you supply two digits after the initial zero
       if the pattern character that follows is itself an octal digit.

       The  escape \o must be followed by a sequence of octal digits, enclosed
       in braces. An error occurs if this is not the case. This  escape  is  a
       recent  addition  to Perl; it provides way of specifying character code
       points as octal numbers greater than 0777, and  it  also  allows  octal
       numbers and back references to be unambiguously specified.

       For greater clarity and unambiguity, it is best to avoid following \ by
       a digit greater than zero. Instead, use \o{} or \x{} to specify charac-
       ter  numbers,  and \g{} to specify back references. The following para-
       graphs describe the old, ambiguous syntax.

       The handling of a backslash followed by a digit other than 0 is compli-
       cated,  and  Perl  has changed in recent releases, causing PCRE also to
       change. Outside a character class, PCRE reads the digit and any follow-
       ing  digits  as  a  decimal number. If the number is less than 8, 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 following \ is
       greater than 7 and there have not been that many capturing subpatterns,
       PCRE  handles \8 and \9 as the literal characters "8" and "9", and oth-
       erwise re-reads up to three octal digits following the backslash, using
       them  to  generate  a  data character.  Any subsequent digits stand for
       themselves. 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
         \377   might be a back reference, otherwise
                   the value 255 (decimal)
         \81    is either a back reference, or the two
                   characters "8" and "1"

       Note that octal values of 100 or greater that are specified using  this
       syntax  must  not be introduced by a leading zero, because no more than
       three octal digits are ever read.

       By default, after \x that is not followed by {, from zero to two  hexa-
       decimal  digits  are  read (letters can be in upper or lower case). Any
       number of hexadecimal digits may appear between \x{ and }. If a charac-
       ter  other  than  a  hexadecimal digit appears between \x{ and }, or if
       there is no terminating }, an error occurs.

       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.

       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).

   Constraints on character values

       Characters that are specified using octal or  hexadecimal  numbers  are
       limited to certain values, as follows:

         8-bit non-UTF mode    less than 0x100
         8-bit UTF-8 mode      less than 0x10ffff and a valid codepoint
         16-bit non-UTF mode   less than 0x10000
         16-bit UTF-16 mode    less than 0x10ffff and a valid codepoint
         32-bit non-UTF mode   less than 0x100000000
         32-bit UTF-32 mode    less than 0x10ffff and a valid codepoint

       Invalid  Unicode  codepoints  are  the  range 0xd800 to 0xdfff (the so-
       called "surrogate" codepoints), and 0xffef.

   Escape sequences in character classes

       All the sequences that define a single character value can be used both
       inside  and  outside character classes. In addition, inside a character
       class, \b is interpreted as the backspace character (hex 08).

       \N is not allowed in a character class. \B, \R, and \X are not  special
       inside  a  character  class.  Like other unrecognized escape sequences,
       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
       inside  and outside character classes. They each match one character of
       the appropriate type. If the current matching point is at  the  end  of
       the  subject string, all of them fail, because there is no character to
       match.

       For compatibility with Perl, \s did not used to match the VT  character
       (code  11),  which  made it different from the the POSIX "space" class.
       However, Perl added VT at release  5.18,  and  PCRE  followed  suit  at
       release  8.34.  The  default  \s characters are now HT (9), LF (10), VT
       (11), FF (12), CR (13), and space (32),  which  are  defined  as  white
       space in the "C" locale. This list may vary if locale-specific matching
       is taking place. For example, in some locales the "non-breaking  space"
       character  (\xA0)  is  recognized  as white space, and in others the VT
       character is not.

       A "word" character is an underscore or any character that is  a  letter
       or  digit.   By  default,  the definition of letters and digits is con-
       trolled by PCRE's low-valued character tables, and may vary if  locale-
       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 127
       are used for accented letters, and these are then matched  by  \w.  The
       use of locales with Unicode is discouraged.

       By  default,  characters  whose  code points are greater than 127 never
       match \d, \s, or \w, and always match \D, \S, and \W, although this may
       vary  for characters in the range 128-255 when locale-specific matching
       is happening.  These escape sequences retain  their  original  meanings
       from  before  Unicode support was available, mainly for efficiency rea-
       sons. If PCRE is  compiled  with  Unicode  property  support,  and  the
       PCRE_UCP  option is set, the behaviour is changed so that Unicode prop-
       erties are used to determine character types, as follows:

         \d  any character that matches \p{Nd} (decimal digit)
         \s  any character that matches \p{Z} or \h or \v
         \w  any character that matches \p{L} or \p{N}, 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
       code points, 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:

         U+000A     Linefeed (LF)
         U+000B     Vertical tab (VT)
         U+000C     Form feed (FF)
         U+000D     Carriage return (CR)
         U+0085     Next line (NEL)
         U+2028     Line separator
         U+2029     Paragraph separator

       In 8-bit, non-UTF-8 mode, only the characters with codepoints less than
       256 are relevant.

   Newline sequences

       Outside  a  character class, by default, the escape sequence \R matches
       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{xx}   a character with the xx property
         \P{xx}   a character without the xx property
         \X       a Unicode extended grapheme cluster

       The  property  names represented by xx above are limited to the Unicode
       script names, the general category properties, "Any", which matches any
       character   (including  newline),  and  some  special  PCRE  properties
       (described in the next section).  Other Perl properties such as  "InMu-
       sicalSymbols"  are  not  currently supported by PCRE. Note that \P{Any}
       does not match any characters, so always causes a match failure.

       Sets of Unicode characters are defined as belonging to certain scripts.
       A  character from one of these sets can be matched using a script name.
       For example:

         \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, Bassa_Vah, Batak, Bengali,
       Bopomofo, Brahmi, Braille, Buginese, Buhid,  Canadian_Aboriginal,  Car-
       ian, Caucasian_Albanian, Chakma, Cham, Cherokee, Common, Coptic, Cunei-
       form, Cypriot, Cyrillic, Deseret, Devanagari, Duployan, Egyptian_Hiero-
       glyphs,  Elbasan,  Ethiopic,  Georgian,  Glagolitic,  Gothic,  Grantha,
       Greek, Gujarati, Gurmukhi,  Han,  Hangul,  Hanunoo,  Hebrew,  Hiragana,
       Imperial_Aramaic,     Inherited,     Inscriptional_Pahlavi,    Inscrip-
       tional_Parthian,  Javanese,  Kaithi,   Kannada,   Katakana,   Kayah_Li,
       Kharoshthi,  Khmer,  Khojki, Khudawadi, Lao, Latin, Lepcha, Limbu, Lin-
       ear_A, Linear_B, Lisu, Lycian, Lydian,  Mahajani,  Malayalam,  Mandaic,
       Manichaean,      Meetei_Mayek,     Mende_Kikakui,     Meroitic_Cursive,
       Meroitic_Hieroglyphs, Miao, Modi, Mongolian, Mro,  Myanmar,  Nabataean,
       New_Tai_Lue,   Nko,  Ogham,  Ol_Chiki,  Old_Italic,  Old_North_Arabian,
       Old_Permic, Old_Persian, Old_South_Arabian, Old_Turkic, Oriya, Osmanya,
       Pahawh_Hmong,    Palmyrene,    Pau_Cin_Hau,    Phags_Pa,    Phoenician,
       Psalter_Pahlavi, Rejang, Runic, Samaritan,  Saurashtra,  Sharada,  Sha-
       vian,  Siddham, Sinhala, Sora_Sompeng, Sundanese, Syloti_Nagri, Syriac,
       Tagalog, Tagbanwa, Tai_Le, Tai_Tham, Tai_Viet,  Takri,  Tamil,  Telugu,
       Thaana,  Thai,  Tibetan, Tifinagh, Tirhuta, Ugaritic, Vai, Warang_Citi,
       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
         Lu    Upper case letter

         M     Mark
         Mc    Spacing mark
         Me    Enclosing mark
         Mn    Non-spacing mark

         N     Number
         Nd    Decimal number
         Nl    Letter number
         No    Other number

         P     Punctuation
         Pc    Connector punctuation
         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. This is
       different from the behaviour of current versions of Perl.

       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-
       lier, simpler definition that was equivalent to

         (?>\PM\pM*)

       That is, it matched a character without the "mark"  property,  followed
       by  zero  or  more characters with the "mark" property. Characters with
       the "mark" property are typically non-spacing accents that  affect  the
       preceding character.

       This  simple definition was extended in Unicode to include more compli-
       cated kinds of composite character by giving each character a  grapheme
       breaking  property,  and  creating  rules  that use these properties to
       define the boundaries of extended grapheme  clusters.  In  releases  of
       PCRE later than 8.31, \X matches one of these clusters.

       \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; it used to exclude ver-
       tical tab, for Perl compatibility, but Perl changed, and so  PCRE  fol-
       lowed  at  release  8.34.  Xwd matches the same characters as Xan, plus
       underscore.

       There is another non-standard property, Xuc, which matches any  charac-
       ter  that  can  be represented by a Universal Character Name in C++ and
       other programming languages. These are the characters $,  @,  `  (grave
       accent),  and  all  characters with Unicode code points greater than or
       equal to U+00A0, except for the surrogates U+D800 to U+DFFF. Note  that
       most  base  (ASCII) characters are excluded. (Universal Character Names
       are of the form \uHHHH or \UHHHHHHHH where H is  a  hexadecimal  digit.
       Note that the Xuc property does not match these sequences but the char-
       acters that they represent.)

   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
       is similar to a lookbehind assertion (described  below).   However,  in
       this  case, the part of the subject before the real match does not have
       to be of fixed length, as lookbehind assertions do. The use of \K  does
       not  interfere  with  the setting of captured substrings.  For example,
       when the pattern

         (foo)\Kbar

       matches "foobar", the first substring is still set to "foo".

       Perl documents that the use  of  \K  within  assertions  is  "not  well
       defined".  In  PCRE,  \K  is  acted upon when it occurs inside positive
       assertions, but is ignored in negative assertions.  Note  that  when  a
       pattern  such  as (?=ab\K) matches, the reported start of the match can
       be greater than the end of the match.

   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.

       Note, however, that PCRE's interpretation of \G, as the  start  of  the
       current match, is subtly different from Perl's, which defines it as the
       end of the previous match. In Perl, these can  be  different  when  the
       previously  matched  string was empty. Because PCRE does just one match
       at a time, it cannot reproduce this behaviour.

       If all the alternatives of a pattern begin with \G, the  expression  is
       anchored to the starting match position, and the "anchored" flag is set
       in the compiled regular expression.


CIRCUMFLEX AND DOLLAR


       The circumflex and dollar  metacharacters  are  zero-width  assertions.
       That  is,  they test for a particular condition being true without con-
       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


       Outside a character class, a dot in the pattern matches any one charac-
       ter in the subject string except (by default) a character  that  signi-
       fies the end of a line.

       When  a line ending is defined as a single character, dot never matches
       that character; when the two-character sequence CRLF is used, dot  does
       not  match  CR  if  it  is immediately followed by LF, but otherwise it
       matches all characters (including isolated CRs and LFs). When any  Uni-
       code  line endings are being recognized, dot does not match CR or LF or
       any of the other line ending characters.

       The behaviour of dot with regard to newlines can  be  changed.  If  the
       PCRE_DOTALL  option  is  set,  a dot matches any one character, without
       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


       An opening square bracket introduces a character class, terminated by a
       closing square bracket. A closing square bracket on its own is not spe-
       cial by default.  However, if the PCRE_JAVASCRIPT_COMPAT option is set,
       a lone closing square bracket causes a compile-time error. If a closing
       square  bracket  is required as a member of the class, it should be the
       first data character in the class  (after  an  initial  circumflex,  if
       present) or escaped with a backslash.

       A  character  class matches a single character in the subject. In a UTF
       mode, the character may be more than one  data  unit  long.  A  matched
       character must be in the set of characters defined by the class, unless
       the first character in the class definition is a circumflex,  in  which
       case the subject character must not be in the set defined by the class.
       If a circumflex is actually required as a member of the  class,  ensure
       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, or immediately after a range. For
       example,  [b-d-z] matches letters in the range b to d, a hyphen charac-
       ter, or z.

       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.

       An  error  is  generated  if  a POSIX character class (see below) or an
       escape sequence other than one that defines a single character  appears
       at  a  point  where  a range ending character is expected. For example,
       [z-\xff] is valid, but [A-\d] and [A-[:digit:]] are not.

       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.

       If a range that includes letters is used when caseless matching is set,
       it matches the letters in either case. For example, [W-c] is equivalent
       to  [][\\^_`wxyzabc],  matched  caselessly,  and  in a non-UTF mode, if
       character tables for a French locale are in  use,  [\xc8-\xcb]  matches
       accented  E  characters  in both cases. In UTF modes, PCRE supports the
       concept of case for characters with values greater than 128  only  when
       it is compiled with Unicode property support.

       The  character escape sequences \d, \D, \h, \H, \p, \P, \s, \S, \v, \V,
       \w, and \W may appear in a character class, and add the characters that
       they  match to the class. For example, [\dABCDEF] matches any hexadeci-
       mal digit. In UTF modes, the PCRE_UCP option affects  the  meanings  of
       \d,  \s,  \w  and  their upper case partners, just as it does when they
       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, or for  a
       special  compatibility  feature  -  see the next two sections), 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 (the same as \s from PCRE 8.34)
         upper    upper case letters
         word     "word" characters (same as \w)
         xdigit   hexadecimal digits

       The default "space" characters are HT (9), LF (10), VT (11),  FF  (12),
       CR  (13),  and space (32). If locale-specific matching is taking place,
       the list of space characters may be different; there may  be  fewer  or
       more of them. "Space" used to be different to \s, which did not include
       VT, for Perl compatibility.  However, Perl changed at release 5.18, and
       PCRE  followed  at release 8.34.  "Space" and \s now match the same set
       of characters.

       The name "word" is a Perl extension, and "blank"  is  a  GNU  extension
       from  Perl  5.8. Another Perl extension is negation, which is indicated
       by a ^ character after the colon. For example,

         [12[:^digit:]]

       matches "1", "2", or any non-digit. PCRE (and Perl) also recognize  the
       POSIX syntax [.ch.] and [=ch=] where "ch" is a "collating element", but
       these are not supported, and an error is given if they are encountered.

       By default, characters with values greater than 128 do not match any of
       the POSIX character classes. However, if the PCRE_UCP option is  passed
       to  pcre_compile(),  some  of  the  classes are changed so that Unicode
       character properties are used. This is achieved  by  replacing  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.


COMPATIBILITY FEATURE FOR WORD BOUNDARIES


       In  the POSIX.2 compliant library that was included in 4.4BSD Unix, the
       ugly syntax [[:<:]] and [[:>:]] is used for matching  "start  of  word"
       and "end of word". PCRE treats these items as follows:

         [[:<:]]  is converted to  \b(?=\w)
         [[:>:]]  is converted to  \b(?<=\w)

       Only these exact character sequences are recognized. A sequence such as
       [a[:<:]b] provokes error for an unrecognized  POSIX  class  name.  This
       support  is not compatible with Perl. It is provided to help migrations
       from other environments, and is best not used in any new patterns. Note
       that  \b matches at the start and the end of a word (see "Simple asser-
       tions" above), and in a Perl-style pattern the preceding  or  following
       character  normally  shows  which  is  wanted, without the need for the
       assertions that are used above in order to give exactly the  POSIX  be-
       haviour.


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
       PCRE_EXTENDED  options  (which are Perl-compatible) can be changed from
       within the pattern by  a  sequence  of  Perl  option  letters  enclosed
       between "(?" and ")".  The option letters are

         i  for PCRE_CASELESS
         m  for PCRE_MULTILINE
         s  for PCRE_DOTALL
         x  for PCRE_EXTENDED

       For example, (?im) sets caseless, multiline matching. It is also possi-
       ble to unset these options by preceding the letter with a hyphen, and a
       combined  setting and unsetting such as (?im-sx), which sets PCRE_CASE-
       LESS and PCRE_MULTILINE while unsetting PCRE_DOTALL and  PCRE_EXTENDED,
       is  also  permitted.  If  a  letter  appears  both before and after the
       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. 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.  How-
       ever,  the  application  can set the PCRE_NEVER_UTF option, which locks
       out the use of the (*UTF) sequences.


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,
       it would match "cataract", "erpillar" or an empty string.

       2. It sets up the subpattern as  a  capturing  subpattern.  This  means
       that,  when  the  whole  pattern  matches,  that portion of the subject
       string that matched the subpattern is passed back to the caller via the
       ovector  argument  of  the matching function. (This applies only to the
       traditional matching functions; the DFA matching functions do not  sup-
       port capturing.)

       Opening parentheses are counted from left to right (starting from 1) to
       obtain numbers for the  capturing  subpatterns.  For  example,  if  the
       string "the red king" is matched against the pattern

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

       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
         # 1            2         2  3        2     3     4

       A  back  reference  to a numbered subpattern uses the most recent value
       that is set for that number by any subpattern.  The  following  pattern
       matches "abcabc" or "defdef":

         /(?|(abc)|(def))\1/

       In  contrast,  a subroutine call to a numbered subpattern always refers
       to the first one in the pattern with the given  number.  The  following
       pattern matches "abcabc" or "defabc":

         /(?|(abc)|(def))(?1)/

       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,  but
       must  start  with  a  non-digit.  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  convenience  function  for extracting the data by name returns the
       substring for the first (and in this example, the only)  subpattern  of
       that  name  that  matched.  This saves searching to find which numbered
       subpattern it was.

       If you make a back reference to  a  non-unique  named  subpattern  from
       elsewhere  in the pattern, the subpatterns to which the name refers are
       checked in the order in which they appear in the overall  pattern.  The
       first one that is set is used for the reference. For example, this pat-
       tern matches both "foofoo" and "barbar" but not "foobar" or "barfoo":

         (?:(?<n>foo)|(?<n>bar))\k<n>


       If you make a subroutine call to a non-unique named subpattern, the one
       that  corresponds  to  the first occurrence of the name is used. In the
       absence of duplicate numbers (see the previous section) this is the one
       with the lowest number.

       If you use a named reference in a condition test (see the section about
       conditions below), either to check whether a subpattern has matched, or
       to  check for recursion, all subpatterns with the same name are tested.
       If the condition is true for any one of them, the overall condition  is
       true.  This  is  the  same  behaviour as testing by number. For further
       details of the interfaces  for  handling  named  subpatterns,  see  the
       pcreapi documentation.

       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 always 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
       of which is represented by a two-byte sequence in a UTF-8 string. Simi-
       larly,  \X{3} matches three Unicode extended grapheme clusters, each of
       which may be several data units long (and  they  may  be  of  different
       lengths).

       The quantifier {0} is permitted, causing the expression to behave as if
       the previous item and the quantifier were not present. This may be use-
       ful  for  subpatterns that are referenced as subroutines from elsewhere
       in the pattern (but see also the section entitled "Defining subpatterns
       for  use  by  reference only" below). Items other than subpatterns that
       have a {0} quantifier are omitted from the compiled pattern.

       For convenience, the three most common quantifiers have  single-charac-
       ter abbreviations:

         *    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
       Perl), the quantifiers are not greedy by default, but  individual  ones
       can  be  made  greedy  by following them with a question mark. In other
       words, it inverts the default behaviour.

       When a parenthesized subpattern is quantified  with  a  minimum  repeat
       count  that is greater than 1 or with a limited maximum, more memory is
       required for the compiled pattern, in proportion to  the  size  of  the
       minimum or maximum.

       If a pattern starts with .* or .{0,} and the PCRE_DOTALL option (equiv-
       alent to Perl's /s) is set, thus allowing the dot  to  match  newlines,
       the  pattern  is  implicitly anchored, because whatever follows will be
       tried against every character position in the subject string, so  there
       is  no  point  in  retrying the overall match at any position after the
       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

         123456bar

       After matching all 6 digits and then failing to match "foo", the normal
       action of the matcher is to try again with only 5 digits  matching  the
       \d+  item,  and  then  with  4,  and  so on, before ultimately failing.
       "Atomic grouping" (a term taken from Jeffrey  Friedl's  book)  provides
       the  means for specifying that once a subpattern has matched, it is not
       to be re-evaluated in this way.

       If we use atomic grouping for the previous example, the  matcher  gives
       up  immediately  on failing to match "foo" the first time. The notation
       is a kind of special parenthesis, starting with (?> as in this example:

         (?>\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
       atomic  group  is  the  only way to avoid some failing matches taking a
       very long time indeed. The pattern

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

       matches an unlimited number of substrings that either consist  of  non-
       digits,  or  digits  enclosed in <>, followed by either ! or ?. When it
       matches, it runs quickly. However, if it is applied to

         aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

       it takes a long time before reporting  failure.  This  is  because  the
       string  can be divided between the internal \D+ repeat and the external
       * repeat in a large number of ways, and all  have  to  be  tried.  (The
       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-
       ing subpattern before \g, that is, is it equivalent to \2 in this exam-
       ple.   Similarly, \g{-2} would be equivalent to \1. The use of relative
       references can be helpful in long patterns, and also in  patterns  that
       are  created  by  joining  together  fragments  that contain references
       within themselves.

       A back reference matches whatever actually matched the  capturing  sub-
       pattern  in  the  current subject string, rather than anything matching
       the subpattern itself (see "Subpatterns as subroutines" below for a way
       of doing that). So the pattern

         (sens|respons)e and \1ibility

       matches  "sense and sensibility" and "response and responsibility", but
       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
       string  corresponding  to  the previous iteration. In order for this to
       work, the pattern must be such that the first iteration does  not  need
       to  match the back reference. This can be done using alternation, as in
       the example above, or by a quantifier with a minimum of zero.

       Back references of this type cause the group that they reference to  be
       treated  as  an atomic group.  Once the whole group has been matched, a
       subsequent matching failure cannot cause backtracking into  the  middle
       of the group.


ASSERTIONS


       An  assertion  is  a  test on the characters following or preceding the
       current matching point that does not actually consume  any  characters.
       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. (Perl sometimes, but not always, does do capturing in nega-
       tive assertions.)

       WARNING:  If a positive assertion containing one or more capturing sub-
       patterns succeeds, but failure to match later  in  the  pattern  causes
       backtracking over this assertion, the captures within the assertion are
       reset only if no higher numbered captures are  already  set.  This  is,
       unfortunately,  a fundamental limitation of the current implementation,
       and as PCRE1 is now in maintenance-only status, it is unlikely ever  to
       change.

       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
       the assertion (?!foo) is always true when the next three characters are
       "bar". A lookbehind assertion is needed to achieve the other effect.

       If you want to force a matching failure at some point in a pattern, the
       most convenient way to do it is  with  (?!)  because  an  empty  string
       always  matches, so an assertion that requires there not to be an empty
       string must always fail.  The backtracking control verb (*FAIL) or (*F)
       is a synonym for (?!).

   Lookbehind assertions

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

         (?<!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
       proceeds from left to right, PCRE will look for each "a" in the subject
       and  then  see  if what follows matches the rest of the pattern. If the
       pattern is specified as

         ^.*abcd$

       the initial .* matches the entire string at first, but when this  fails
       (because there is no following "a"), it backtracks to match all but the
       last character, then all but the last two characters, and so  on.  Once
       again  the search for "a" covers the entire string, from right to left,
       so we are no better off. However, if the pattern is written as

         ^.*+(?<=abcd)

       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-
       tives  in  the subpattern, a compile-time error occurs. Each of the two
       alternatives may itself contain nested subpatterns of any form, includ-
       ing  conditional  subpatterns;  the  restriction  to  two  alternatives
       applies only at the level of the condition. This pattern fragment is an
       example where the alternatives are complex:

         (?(1) (A|B|C) | (D | (?(2)E|F) | E) )


       There  are  four  kinds of condition: references to subpatterns, refer-
       ences to recursion, a pseudo-condition called DEFINE, and assertions.

   Checking for a used subpattern by number

       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.

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

         (?<OPEN> \( )?    [^()]+    (?(<OPEN>) \) )

       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 has matched.

   Checking for pattern recursion

       If the condition is the string (R), and there is no subpattern with the
       name R, the condition is true if a recursive call to the whole  pattern
       or any subpattern has been made. If digits or a name preceded by amper-
       sand follow the letter R, for example:

         (?(R3)...) or (?(R&name)...)

       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


       There are two ways of including comments in patterns that are processed
       by PCRE. In both cases, the start of the comment must not be in a char-
       acter class, nor in the middle of any other sequence of related charac-
       ters such as (?: or a subpattern name or number.  The  characters  that
       make up a comment play no part in the pattern matching.

       The  sequence (?# marks the start of a comment that continues up to the
       next closing parenthesis. Nested parentheses are not permitted. If  the
       PCRE_EXTENDED option is set, an unescaped # character also introduces a
       comment, which in this case continues to  immediately  after  the  next
       newline  character  or character sequence in the pattern. Which charac-
       ters are interpreted as newlines is controlled by the options passed to
       a  compiling function or by a special sequence at the start of the pat-
       tern, as described in the section entitled "Newline conventions" above.
       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-
       sized substring).  Finally there is a closing parenthesis. Note the use
       of a possessive quantifier to avoid backtracking into sequences of non-
       parentheses.

       If  this  were  part of a larger pattern, you would not want to recurse
       the entire pattern, so instead you could use this:

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

       We have put the pattern into parentheses, and caused the  recursion  to
       refer to them instead of the whole pattern.

       In  a  larger  pattern,  keeping  track  of  parenthesis numbers can be
       tricky. This is made easier by the use of relative references.  Instead
       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
       recursion.   Consider  this pattern, which matches text in angle brack-
       ets, allowing for arbitrary nesting. Only digits are allowed in  nested
       brackets  (that is, when recursing), whereas any characters are permit-
       ted at the outer level.

         < (?: (?(R) \d++  | [^<>]*+) | (?R)) * >

       In this pattern, (?(R) is the start of a conditional  subpattern,  with
       two  different  alternatives for the recursive and non-recursive cases.
       The (?R) item is the actual recursive call.

   Differences in recursion processing between PCRE and Perl

       Recursion processing in PCRE differs from Perl in two  important  ways.
       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|.))

       If  you  want  to match typical palindromic phrases, the pattern has to
       ignore all non-word characters, which can be done like this:

         ^\W*+(?:((.)\W*+(?1)\W*+\2|)|((.)\W*+(?3)\W*+\4|\W*+.\W*+))\W*+$

       If run with the PCRE_CASELESS option, this pattern matches phrases such
       as "A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!" and it works well in both PCRE and
       Perl. Note the use of the possessive quantifier *+ to avoid  backtrack-
       ing  into  sequences of non-word characters. Without this, PCRE takes a
       great deal longer (ten times or more) to  match  typical  phrases,  and
       Perl takes so long that you think it has gone into a loop.

       WARNING:  The  palindrome-matching patterns above work only if the sub-
       ject string does not start with a palindrome that is shorter  than  the
       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
       previous values afterwards.

       Processing  options  such as case-independence are fixed when a subpat-
       tern is defined, so if it is used as a subroutine, such options  cannot
       be changed for different calls. For example, consider this pattern:

         (abc)(?i:(?-1))

       It  matches  "abcabc". It does not match "abcABC" because the change of
       processing option does not affect the called subpattern.


ONIGURUMA SUBROUTINE SYNTAX


       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,
       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. If there is a conditional group  in  the  pattern
       whose condition is an assertion, an additional callout is inserted just
       before the condition. An explicit callout may also be set at this posi-
       tion, as in this example:

         (?(?C9)(?=a)abc|def)

       Note that this applies only to assertion conditions, not to other types
       of condition.

       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.

       By default, PCRE implements a number of optimizations at  compile  time
       and  matching  time, and one side-effect is that sometimes callouts are
       skipped. If you need all possible callouts to happen, you need  to  set
       options  that  disable  the relevant optimizations. More details, and a
       complete description of the interface  to  the  callout  function,  are
       given in the pcrecallout documentation.


BACKTRACKING CONTROL


       Perl  5.10 introduced a number of "Special Backtracking Control Verbs",
       which are still described in the Perl  documentation  as  "experimental
       and  subject to change or removal in a future version of Perl". It goes
       on to say: "Their usage in production code should  be  noted  to  avoid
       problems  during upgrades." The same remarks apply to the PCRE features
       described in this section.

       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,  possibly  behaving
       differently  depending  on  whether or not a name 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 libraries. If the name is  empty,  that  is,  if  the
       closing  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.

       Since  these  verbs  are  specifically related to backtracking, most of
       them can be used only when the pattern is to be matched  using  one  of
       the  traditional  matching  functions, because these use a backtracking
       algorithm. With the exception of (*FAIL), which behaves like a  failing
       negative  assertion,  the  backtracking control verbs cause an error if
       encountered by a DFA matching function.

       The behaviour of these verbs in repeated  groups,  assertions,  and  in
       subpatterns called as subroutines (whether or not recursively) is docu-
       mented below.

   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 bypasses 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) in triggered in a posi-
       tive  assertion,  the  assertion succeeds; in a negative assertion, the
       assertion fails.

       If (*ACCEPT) is inside capturing parentheses, the data so far  is  cap-
       tured. For example:

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

       This  matches  "AB", "AAD", or "ACD"; when it matches "AB", "B" is cap-
       tured by the outer parentheses.

         (*FAIL) or (*F)

       This verb causes a matching failure, forcing backtracking to occur.  It
       is  equivalent to (?!) but easier to read. The Perl documentation notes
       that it is probably useful only when combined  with  (?{})  or  (??{}).
       Those  are,  of course, Perl features that are not present in PCRE. The
       nearest equivalent is the callout feature, as for example in this  pat-
       tern:

         a+(?C)(*FAIL)

       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:NAME),
       (*PRUNE:NAME),  or  (*THEN:NAME) 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  out-
       putting 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 a verb with a name is encountered in a positive  assertion  that  is
       true,  the  name  is recorded and passed back if it is the last-encoun-
       tered. This does not happen for negative assertions or failing positive
       assertions.

       After  a  partial match or a failed match, the last encountered name 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
       should probably set the PCRE_NO_START_OPTIMIZE option  (see  above)  to
       ensure that the match is always attempted.

   Verbs that act after backtracking

       The following verbs do nothing when they are encountered. Matching con-
       tinues with what follows, but if there is no subsequent match,  causing
       a  backtrack  to  the  verb, a failure is forced. That is, backtracking
       cannot pass to the left of the verb. However, when one of  these  verbs
       appears inside an atomic group or an assertion that is true, its effect
       is confined to that group, because once the  group  has  been  matched,
       there  is never any backtracking into it. In this situation, backtrack-
       ing can "jump back" to the left of the entire atomic  group  or  asser-
       tion.  (Remember  also,  as  stated  above, that this localization also
       applies in subroutine calls.)

       These verbs differ in exactly what kind of failure  occurs  when  back-
       tracking  reaches  them.  The behaviour described below is what happens
       when the verb is not in a subroutine or an assertion.  Subsequent  sec-
       tions cover these special cases.

         (*COMMIT)

       This  verb, which may not be followed by a name, causes the whole match
       to fail outright if there is a later matching failure that causes back-
       tracking  to  reach  it.  Even if the pattern is unanchored, no further
       attempts to find a match by advancing the starting point take place. If
       (*COMMIT)  is  the  only backtracking verb that is encountered, once it
       has been passed pcre_exec() is committed to finding a match at the cur-
       rent 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.

       If there is more than one backtracking verb in a pattern,  a  different
       one  that  follows  (*COMMIT) may be triggered first, so merely passing
       (*COMMIT) during a match does not always guarantee that a match must be
       at this starting point.

       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 output from pcretest:

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

       For this pattern, PCRE knows that any match must start with "a", so the
       optimization skips along the subject to "a" before applying the pattern
       to  the first set of data. The match attempt then succeeds. In the sec-
       ond set of data, the escape sequence \Y is interpreted by the  pcretest
       program.  It  causes  the  PCRE_NO_START_OPTIMIZE option to be set when
       pcre_exec() is called.  This disables the optimization that skips along
       to the first character. The pattern is now applied starting at "x", and
       so the (*COMMIT) causes the match 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 there is a later matching failure that causes backtrack-
       ing  to  reach it. 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 alternative to an atomic group or possessive  quan-
       tifier, but there are some uses of (*PRUNE) that cannot be expressed in
       any other way. In an anchored pattern (*PRUNE) has the same  effect  as
       (*COMMIT).

       The   behaviour   of   (*PRUNE:NAME)   is   the   not   the   same   as
       (*MARK:NAME)(*PRUNE).  It is like (*MARK:NAME)  in  that  the  name  is
       remembered  for  passing  back  to  the  caller.  However, (*SKIP:NAME)
       searches only for names set with (*MARK).

         (*SKIP)

       This verb, when given without a name, is like (*PRUNE), except that  if
       the  pattern  is unanchored, the "bumpalong" advance is not to the next
       character, but to the position in the subject where (*SKIP) was encoun-
       tered.  (*SKIP)  signifies that whatever text was matched leading up to
       it cannot be part of a successful match. Consider:

         a+(*SKIP)b

       If the subject is "aaaac...",  after  the  first  match  attempt  fails
       (starting  at  the  first  character in the string), the starting point
       skips on to start the next attempt at "c". Note that a possessive quan-
       tifer  does not have the same effect as this example; although it would
       suppress backtracking  during  the  first  match  attempt,  the  second
       attempt  would  start at the second character instead of skipping on to
       "c".

         (*SKIP:NAME)

       When (*SKIP) has an associated name, its behaviour is modified. When it
       is triggered, 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 corresponds to that
       (*MARK) instead of to where (*SKIP) was encountered. If no (*MARK) with
       a matching name is found, the (*SKIP) is ignored.

       Note  that (*SKIP:NAME) searches only for names set by (*MARK:NAME). It
       ignores names that are set by (*PRUNE:NAME) or (*THEN:NAME).

         (*THEN) or (*THEN:NAME)

       This verb causes a skip to the next innermost  alternative  when  back-
       tracking  reaches  it.  That  is,  it  cancels any further backtracking
       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. If that succeeds and BAR fails, COND3 is tried.  If  subse-
       quently  BAZ fails, there are no more alternatives, so there is a back-
       track to whatever came before the  entire  group.  If  (*THEN)  is  not
       inside an alternation, it acts like (*PRUNE).

       The    behaviour   of   (*THEN:NAME)   is   the   not   the   same   as
       (*MARK:NAME)(*THEN).  It is like  (*MARK:NAME)  in  that  the  name  is
       remembered  for  passing  back  to  the  caller.  However, (*SKIP:NAME)
       searches only for names set with (*MARK).

       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 subpattern  to
       the  enclosing alternative. Consider this pattern, where A, B, etc. are
       complex pattern fragments that do not contain any | characters 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  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:

         ^.*? (?(?=a) a | b(*THEN)c )

       If the subject is "ba", this pattern does not  match.  Because  .*?  is
       ungreedy,  it  initially  matches  zero characters. The condition (?=a)
       then fails, the character "b" is matched,  but  "c"  is  not.  At  this
       point,  matching does not backtrack to .*? as might perhaps be expected
       from the presence of the | character.  The  conditional  subpattern  is
       part of the single alternative that comprises the whole pattern, and so
       the match fails. (If there was a backtrack into  .*?,  allowing  it  to
       match "b", the match would succeed.)

       The  verbs just described provide four different "strengths" of control
       when subsequent matching fails. (*THEN) is the weakest, carrying on the
       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.

   More than one backtracking verb

       If  more  than  one  backtracking verb is present in a pattern, the one
       that is backtracked onto first acts. For example,  consider  this  pat-
       tern, where A, B, etc. are complex pattern fragments:

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

       If  A matches but B fails, the backtrack to (*COMMIT) causes the entire
       match to fail. However, if A and B match, but C fails, the backtrack to
       (*THEN)  causes  the next alternative (ABD) to be tried. This behaviour
       is consistent, but is not always the same as Perl's. It means  that  if
       two  or  more backtracking verbs appear in succession, all the the last
       of them has no effect. Consider this example:

         ...(*COMMIT)(*PRUNE)...

       If there is a matching failure to the right, backtracking onto (*PRUNE)
       causes  it to be triggered, and its action is taken. There can never be
       a backtrack onto (*COMMIT).

   Backtracking verbs in repeated groups

       PCRE differs from  Perl  in  its  handling  of  backtracking  verbs  in
       repeated groups. For example, consider:

         /(a(*COMMIT)b)+ac/

       If  the  subject  is  "abac",  Perl matches, but PCRE fails because the
       (*COMMIT) in the second repeat of the group acts.

   Backtracking verbs in assertions

       (*FAIL) in an assertion has its normal effect: it forces  an  immediate
       backtrack.

       (*ACCEPT) in a positive assertion causes the assertion to succeed with-
       out any further processing. In a negative assertion,  (*ACCEPT)  causes
       the assertion to fail without any further processing.

       The  other  backtracking verbs are not treated specially if they appear
       in a positive assertion. In  particular,  (*THEN)  skips  to  the  next
       alternative  in  the  innermost  enclosing group that has alternations,
       whether or not this is within the assertion.

       Negative assertions are, however, different, in order  to  ensure  that
       changing  a  positive  assertion  into a negative assertion changes its
       result. Backtracking into (*COMMIT), (*SKIP), or (*PRUNE) causes a neg-
       ative assertion to be true, without considering any further alternative
       branches in the assertion.  Backtracking into (*THEN) causes it to skip
       to  the next enclosing alternative within the assertion (the normal be-
       haviour), but if the assertion  does  not  have  such  an  alternative,
       (*THEN) behaves like (*PRUNE).

   Backtracking verbs in subroutines

       These  behaviours  occur whether or not the subpattern is called recur-
       sively.  Perl's treatment of subroutines is different in some cases.

       (*FAIL) in a subpattern called as a subroutine has its  normal  effect:
       it forces an immediate backtrack.

       (*ACCEPT)  in a subpattern called as a subroutine causes the subroutine
       match to succeed without any further processing. Matching then  contin-
       ues after the subroutine call.

       (*COMMIT), (*SKIP), and (*PRUNE) in a subpattern called as a subroutine
       cause the subroutine match to fail.

       (*THEN) skips to the next alternative in the innermost enclosing  group
       within  the subpattern that has alternatives. If there is no such group
       within the subpattern, (*THEN) causes the subroutine match to fail.


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: 23 October 2016
       Copyright (c) 1997-2016 University of Cambridge.



PCRE 8.40                       23 October 2016                 pcrepattern(3)

pcre 8.40 - Generated Mon Jan 30 18:28:38 CST 2017
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