How do you access the matched groups in a JavaScript regular expression?

nickf Source

I want to match a portion of a string using a regular expression and then access that parenthesized substring:

var myString = "something format_abc"; // I want "abc"

var arr = /(?:^|\s)format_(.*?)(?:\s|$)/.exec(myString);

console.log(arr);     // Prints: [" format_abc", "abc"] .. so far so good.
console.log(arr[1]);  // Prints: undefined  (???)
console.log(arr[0]);  // Prints: format_undefined (!!!)

What am I doing wrong?


I've discovered that there was nothing wrong with the regular expression code above: the actual string which I was testing against was this:

"date format_%A"

Reporting that "%A" is undefined seems a very strange behaviour, but it is not directly related to this question, so I've opened a new one, Why is a matched substring returning "undefined" in JavaScript?.


The issue was that console.log takes its parameters like a printf statement, and since the string I was logging ("%A") had a special value, it was trying to find the value of the next parameter.

javascriptregex

Answers

answered 10 years ago CMS #1

You can access capturing groups like this:

var myString = "something format_abc";
var myRegexp = /(?:^|\s)format_(.*?)(?:\s|$)/g;
var match = myRegexp.exec(myString);
console.log(match[1]); // abc

And if there are multiple matches you can iterate over them:

var myString = "something format_abc";
var myRegexp = /(?:^|\s)format_(.*?)(?:\s|$)/g;
match = myRegexp.exec(myString);
while (match != null) {
  // matched text: match[0]
  // match start: match.index
  // capturing group n: match[n]
  console.log(match[0])
  match = myRegexp.exec(myString);
}

answered 10 years ago eyelidlessness #2

Using your code:

console.log(arr[1]);  // prints: abc
console.log(arr[0]);  // prints:  format_abc

Edit: Safari 3, if it matters.

answered 10 years ago PhiLho #3

var myString = "something format_abc";
var arr = myString.match(/\bformat_(.*?)\b/);
console.log(arr[0] + " " + arr[1]);

The \b isn't exactly the same thing. (It works on --format_foo/, but doesn't work on format_a_b) But I wanted to show an alternative to your expression, which is fine. Of course, the match call is the important thing.

answered 10 years ago PEZ #4

Your code works for me (FF3 on Mac) even if I agree with PhiLo that the regex should probably be:

/\bformat_(.*?)\b/

(But, of course, I'm not sure because I don't know the context of the regex.)

answered 10 years ago Jonathan Lonowski #5

Your syntax probably isn't the best to keep. FF/Gecko defines RegExp as an extension of Function.
(FF2 went as far as typeof(/pattern/) == 'function')

It seems this is specific to FF -- IE, Opera, and Chrome all throw exceptions for it.

Instead, use either method previously mentioned by others: RegExp#exec or String#match.
They offer the same results:

var regex = /(?:^|\s)format_(.*?)(?:\s|$)/;
var input = "something format_abc";

regex(input);        //=> [" format_abc", "abc"]
regex.exec(input);   //=> [" format_abc", "abc"]
input.match(regex);  //=> [" format_abc", "abc"]

answered 6 years ago Mathias Bynens #6

Here’s a method you can use to get the n​th capturing group for each match:

function getMatches(string, regex, index) {
  index || (index = 1); // default to the first capturing group
  var matches = [];
  var match;
  while (match = regex.exec(string)) {
    matches.push(match[index]);
  }
  return matches;
}


// Example :
var myString = 'something format_abc something format_def something format_ghi';
var myRegEx = /(?:^|\s)format_(.*?)(?:\s|$)/g;

// Get an array containing the first capturing group for every match
var matches = getMatches(myString, myRegEx, 1);

// Log results
document.write(matches.length + ' matches found: ' + JSON.stringify(matches))
console.log(matches);

answered 4 years ago Nabil Kadimi #7

A one liner that is practical only if you have a single pair of parenthesis:

while ( ( match = myRegex.exec( myStr ) ) && matches.push( match[1] ) ) {};

answered 4 years ago Alexz #8

In regards to the multi-match parentheses examples above, I was looking for an answer here after not getting what I wanted from:

var matches = mystring.match(/(?:neededToMatchButNotWantedInResult)(matchWanted)/igm);

After looking at the slightly convoluted function calls with while and .push() above, it dawned on me that the problem can be solved very elegantly with mystring.replace() instead (the replacing is NOT the point, and isn't even done, the CLEAN, built-in recursive function call option for the second parameter is!):

var yourstring = 'something format_abc something format_def something format_ghi';

var matches = [];
yourstring.replace(/format_([^\s]+)/igm, function(m, p1){ matches.push(p1); } );

After this, I don't think I'm ever going to use .match() for hardly anything ever again.

answered 3 years ago Pawel Kwiecien #9

/*Regex function for extracting object from "window.location.search" string.
 */

var search = "?a=3&b=4&c=7"; // Example search string

var getSearchObj = function (searchString) {

    var match, key, value, obj = {};
    var pattern = /(\w+)=(\w+)/g;
    var search = searchString.substr(1); // Remove '?'

    while (match = pattern.exec(search)) {
        obj[match[0].split('=')[0]] = match[0].split('=')[1];
    }

    return obj;

};

console.log(getSearchObj(search));

answered 2 years ago Jack #10

function getMatches(string, regex, index) {
  index || (index = 1); // default to the first capturing group
  var matches = [];
  var match;
  while (match = regex.exec(string)) {
    matches.push(match[index]);
  }
  return matches;
}


// Example :
var myString = 'Rs.200 is Debited to A/c ...2031 on 02-12-14 20:05:49 (Clear Bal Rs.66248.77) AT ATM. TollFree 1800223344 18001024455 (6am-10pm)';
var myRegEx = /clear bal.+?(\d+\.?\d{2})/gi;

// Get an array containing the first capturing group for every match
var matches = getMatches(myString, myRegEx, 1);

// Log results
document.write(matches.length + ' matches found: ' + JSON.stringify(matches))
console.log(matches);

function getMatches(string, regex, index) {
  index || (index = 1); // default to the first capturing group
  var matches = [];
  var match;
  while (match = regex.exec(string)) {
    matches.push(match[index]);
  }
  return matches;
}


// Example :
var myString = 'something format_abc something format_def something format_ghi';
var myRegEx = /(?:^|\s)format_(.*?)(?:\s|$)/g;

// Get an array containing the first capturing group for every match
var matches = getMatches(myString, myRegEx, 1);

// Log results
document.write(matches.length + ' matches found: ' + JSON.stringify(matches))
console.log(matches);

answered 2 years ago Sebastien H. #11

Last but not least, i found that one line code that worked fine for me (JS ES6) :

var reg = /#([\S]+)/igm; //get hashtags
var string = 'mi alegría es total! ✌🙌\n#fiestasdefindeaño #PadreHijo #buenosmomentos #france #paris';

var matches = (string.match(reg) || []).map(e => e.replace(reg, '$1'));
console.log(matches);

this will return : [fiestasdefindeaño, PadreHijo, buenosmomentos, france, paris]

answered 1 year ago Andre Carneiro #12

There is no need to invoke the exec method! You can use "match" method directly on the string. Just don't forget the parentheses.

var str = "This is cool";
var matches = str.match(/(This is)( cool)$/);
console.log( JSON.stringify(matches) ); // will print ["This is cool","This is"," cool"] or something like that...

Position 0 has a string with all the results. Position 1 has the first match represented by parentheses, and position 2 has the second match isolated in your parentheses. Nested parentheses are tricky, so beware!

answered 1 year ago Daniel Hallgren #13

Terminology used in this answer:

  • Match indicates the result of running your RegEx pattern against your string like so: someString.match(regexPattern).
  • Matched patterns indicate all matched portions of the input string, which all reside inside the match array. These are all instances of your pattern inside the input string.
  • Matched groups indicate all groups to catch, defined in the RegEx pattern. (The patterns inside parentheses, like so: /format_(.*?)/g, where (.*?) would be a matched group.) These reside within matched patterns.

Description

To get access to the matched groups, in each of the matched patterns, you need a function or something similar to iterate over the match. There are a number of ways you can do this, as many of the other answers show. Most other answers use a while loop to iterate over all matched patterns, but I think we all know the potential dangers with that approach. It is necessary to match against a new RegExp() instead of just the pattern itself, which only got mentioned in a comment. This is because the .exec() method behaves similar to a generator functionit stops every time there is a match, but keeps its .lastIndex to continue from there on the next .exec() call.

Code examples

Below is an example of a function searchString which returns an Array of all matched patterns, where each match is an Array with all the containing matched groups. Instead of using a while loop, I have provided examples using both the Array.prototype.map() function as well as a more performant way – using a plain for-loop.

Concise versions (less code, more syntactic sugar)

These are less performant since they basically implement a forEach-loop instead of the faster for-loop.

// Concise ES6/ES2015 syntax
const searchString = 
    (string, pattern) => 
        string
        .match(new RegExp(pattern.source, pattern.flags))
        .map(match => 
            new RegExp(pattern.source, pattern.flags)
            .exec(match));

// Or if you will, with ES5 syntax
function searchString(string, pattern) {
    return string
        .match(new RegExp(pattern.source, pattern.flags))
        .map(match =>
            new RegExp(pattern.source, pattern.flags)
            .exec(match));
}

let string = "something format_abc",
    pattern = /(?:^|\s)format_(.*?)(?:\s|$)/;

let result = searchString(string, pattern);
// [[" format_abc", "abc"], null]
// The trailing `null` disappears if you add the `global` flag

Performant versions (more code, less syntactic sugar)

// Performant ES6/ES2015 syntax
const searchString = (string, pattern) => {
    let result = [];

    const matches = string.match(new RegExp(pattern.source, pattern.flags));

    for (let i = 0; i < matches.length; i++) {
        result.push(new RegExp(pattern.source, pattern.flags).exec(matches[i]));
    }

    return result;
};

// Same thing, but with ES5 syntax
function searchString(string, pattern) {
    var result = [];

    var matches = string.match(new RegExp(pattern.source, pattern.flags));

    for (var i = 0; i < matches.length; i++) {
        result.push(new RegExp(pattern.source, pattern.flags).exec(matches[i]));
    }

    return result;
}

let string = "something format_abc",
    pattern = /(?:^|\s)format_(.*?)(?:\s|$)/;

let result = searchString(string, pattern);
// [[" format_abc", "abc"], null]
// The trailing `null` disappears if you add the `global` flag

I have yet to compare these alternatives to the ones previously mentioned in the other answers, but I doubt this approach is less performant and less fail-safe than the others.

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