Nikhar Kesari
By Nikhar Kesari

A simple Guide to RegEx

A simple Guide to RegEx

A simple Guide to RegEX

Regular Expressions

Regular expression is a set of characters, called as the pattern, which helps in finding substrings in a given string. The pattern is used to detect the substrings

For example, suppose you have a dataset of customer reviews about your restaurant. Say, you want to extract the emojis from the reviews because they are a good predictor os the sentiment of the review.

Take another example, the artificial assistants such as Siri, Google Now use information retrieval to give you better results. When you ask them for any query or ask them to search for something interesting on the screen, they look for common patterns such as emails, phone numbers, place names, date and time and so on. This is because then the assitant can automatically make a booking or ask you to call the resturant to make a booking.

Regular expressions are very powerful tool in text processing. It will help you to clean and handle your text in a much better way.

Let’s import the regular expression library in python.

In [1]:

import re

Let’s do a quick search using a pattern.

In [2]:

re.search(‘Ravi’, ‘Ravi is an exceptional student!’)

Out[2]:

<re.Match object; span=(0, 4), match=’Ravi’>

In [3]:

print output of re.search()

match = re.search(‘Ravi’, ‘Ravi is an exceptional student!’)

print(match.group())

Ravi

Let’s define a function to match regular expression patterns

In [4]:

def find_pattern(text, patterns):

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if re.search(patterns, text):

    return re.search(patterns, text)

else:

    return 'Not Found!'

Quantifiers

In [5]:

‘*’: Zero or more

print(find_pattern(“ac”, “ab*”))

print(find_pattern(“abc”, “ab*”))

print(find_pattern(“abbc”, “ab*”))

<re.Match object; span=(0, 1), match=’a’>

<re.Match object; span=(0, 2), match=’ab’>

<re.Match object; span=(0, 3), match=’abb’>

In [6]:

’?’: Zero or one (tells whether a pattern is absent or present)

print(find_pattern(“ac”, “ab?”))

print(find_pattern(“abc”, “ab?”))

print(find_pattern(“abbc”, “ab?”))

<re.Match object; span=(0, 1), match=’a’>

<re.Match object; span=(0, 2), match=’ab’>

<re.Match object; span=(0, 2), match=’ab’>

In [7]:

’+’: One or more

print(find_pattern(“ac”, “ab+”))

print(find_pattern(“abc”, “ab+”))

print(find_pattern(“abbc”, “ab+”))

Not Found!

<re.Match object; span=(0, 2), match=’ab’>

<re.Match object; span=(0, 3), match=’abb’>

In [8]:

{n}: Matches if a character is present exactly n number of times

print(find_pattern(“abbc”, “ab{2}”))

<re.Match object; span=(0, 3), match=’abb’>

In [9]:

{m,n}: Matches if a character is present from m to n number of times

print(find_pattern(“aabbbbbbc”, “ab{3,5}”)) # return true if ‘b’ is present 3-5 times

print(find_pattern(“aabbbbbbc”, “ab{7,10}”)) # return true if ‘b’ is present 7-10 times

print(find_pattern(“aabbbbbbc”, “ab{,10}”)) # return true if ‘b’ is present atmost 10 times

print(find_pattern(“aabbbbbbc”, “ab{10,}”)) # return true if ‘b’ is present from at least 10 times

<re.Match object; span=(1, 7), match=’abbbbb’>

Not Found!

<re.Match object; span=(0, 1), match=’a’>

Not Found!

Anchors

In [10]:

’^’: Indicates start of a string

’$’: Indicates end of string

print(find_pattern(“James”, “^J”)) # return true if string starts with ‘J’

print(find_pattern(“Pramod”, “^J”)) # return true if string starts with ‘J’

print(find_pattern(“India”, “a$”)) # return true if string ends with ‘a’

print(find_pattern(“Japan”, “a$”)) # return true if string ends with ‘a’

<re.Match object; span=(0, 1), match=’J’>

Not Found!

<re.Match object; span=(4, 5), match=’a’>

Not Found!

Wildcard

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’.’: Matches any character

print(find_pattern(“a”, “.”))

print(find_pattern(“#”, “.”))

<re.Match object; span=(0, 1), match=’a’>

<re.Match object; span=(0, 1), match=’#’>

Character sets

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Now we will look at ‘[’ and ‘]’.

They’re used for specifying a character class, which is a set of characters that you wish to match.

Characters can be listed individually as follows

print(find_pattern(“a”, “[abc]”))

Or a range of characters can be indicated by giving two characters and separating them by a ‘-‘.

print(find_pattern(“c”, “[a-c]”)) # same as above

<re.Match object; span=(0, 1), match=’a’>

<re.Match object; span=(0, 1), match=’c’>

In [13]:

’^’ is used inside character set to indicate complementary set

print(find_pattern(“a”, “[^abc]”)) # return true if neither of these is present - a,b or c

Not Found!

Character sets

Pattern Matches

[abc] Matches either an a, b or c character

[abcABC] Matches either an a, A, b, B, c or C character

[a-z] Matches any characters between a and z, including a and z

[A-Z] Matches any characters between A and Z, including A and Z

[a-zA-Z] Matches any characters between a and z, including a and z ignoring cases of the characters

[0-9] Matches any character which is a number between 0 and 9

Meta sequences

Pattern Equivalent to

\s [ \t\n\r\f\v]

\S [^ \t\n\r\f\v]

\d [0-9]

\D [^0-9]

\w [a-zA-Z0-9_]

\W [^a-zA-Z0-9_]

Greedy vs non-greedy regex

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print(find_pattern(“aabbbbbb”, “ab{3,5}”)) # return if a is followed by b 3-5 times GREEDY

<re.Match object; span=(1, 7), match=’abbbbb’>

In [15]:

print(find_pattern(“aabbbbbb”, “ab{3,5}?”)) # return if a is followed by b 3-5 times GREEDY

<re.Match object; span=(1, 5), match=’abbb’>

In [16]:

Example of HTML code

print(re.search(“<.*>”,”<HTML>My Page</HTML>”))

<re.Match object; span=(0, 35), match=’<HTML>My Page</HTML>’>

In [17]:

Example of HTML code

print(re.search(“<.*?>”,”<HTML>My Page</HTML>”))

<re.Match object; span=(0, 6), match=’<HTML>’>

The five most important re functions that you would be required to use most of the times are

match() Determine if the RE matches at the beginning of the string

search() Scan through a string, looking for any location where this RE matches

finall() Find all the substrings where the RE matches, and return them as a list

finditer() Find all substrings where RE matches and return them as asn iterator

sub() Find all substrings where the RE matches and substitute them with the given string

In [18]:

- this function uses the re.match() and let’s see how it differs from re.search()

def match_pattern(text, patterns):

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if re.match(patterns, text):

    return re.match(patterns, text)

else:

    return ('Not found!')

In [19]:

print(find_pattern(“abbc”, “b+”))

<re.Match object; span=(1, 3), match=’bb’>

In [20]:

print(match_pattern(“abbc”, “b+”))

Not found!

In [21]:

Example usage of the sub() function. Replace Road with rd.

street = ‘21 Ramakrishna Road’

print(re.sub(‘Road’, ‘Rd’, street))

21 Ramakrishna Rd

In [22]:

print(re.sub(‘R\w+’, ‘Rd’, street))

21 Rd Rd

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Example usage of finditer(). Find all occurrences of word Festival in given sentence

text = ‘Diwali is a festival of lights, Holi is a festival of colors!’

pattern = ‘festival’

for match in re.finditer(pattern, text):

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print('START -', match.start(), end="")

print('END -', match.end())

START - 12END - 20

START - 42END - 50

In [24]:

Example usage of findall(). In the given URL find all dates

url = “http://www.telegraph.co.uk/formula-1/2017/10/28/mexican-grand-prix-2017-time-does-start-tv-channel-odds-lewisl/2017/05/12”

date_regex = ‘/(\d{4})/(\d{1,2})/(\d{1,2})/’

print(re.findall(date_regex, url))

[(‘2017’, ‘10’, ‘28’)]

In [25]:

Exploring Groups

m1 = re.search(date_regex, url)

print(m1.group()) ## print the matched group

/2017/10/28/

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print(m1.group(1)) # - Print first group

2017

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print(m1.group(2)) # - Print second group

10

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print(m1.group(3)) # - Print third group

28

In [29]:

print(m1.group(0)) # - Print zero or the default group

/2017/10/28/