JavaScript Regular Expressions

A regular expression is a sequence of characters that forms a search pattern.

The search pattern can be used for text search and text replace operations.


What Is a Regular Expression?

A regular expression is a sequence of characters that forms a search pattern.

When you search for data in a text, you can use this search pattern to describe what you are searching for.

A regular expression can be a single character, or a more complicated pattern.

Regular expressions can be used to perform all types of text search and text replace operations.

Syntax

/pattern/modifiers;

Example

var patt = /w3schools/i;

Example explained:

/w3schools/i  is a regular expression.

w3schools  is a pattern (to be used in a search).

i  is a modifier (modifies the search to be case-insensitive).


Using String Methods

In JavaScript, regular expressions are often used with the two string methods: search() and replace().

The search() method uses an expression to search for a match, and returns the position of the match.

The replace() method returns a modified string where the pattern is replaced.


Using String search() With a String

The search() method searches a string for a specified value and returns the position of the match:

Example

Use a string to do a search for “W3schools” in a string:

var str = “Visit W3Schools!”;
var n = str.search(“W3Schools”);

Try it Yourself »


Using String search() With a Regular Expression

Example

Use a regular expression to do a case-insensitive search for “w3schools” in a string:

var str = “Visit W3Schools”;
var n = str.search(/w3schools/i);

The result in n will be:

6

Try it Yourself »


Using String replace() With a String

The replace() method replaces a specified value with another value in a string:

var str = “Visit Microsoft!”;
var res = str.replace(“Microsoft”, “W3Schools”);

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Use String replace() With a Regular Expression

Example

Use a case insensitive regular expression to replace Microsoft with W3Schools in a string:

var str = “Visit Microsoft!”;
var res = str.replace(/microsoft/i, “W3Schools”);

The result in res will be:

Visit W3Schools!

Try it Yourself »


Did You Notice?

Regular expression arguments (instead of string arguments) can be used in the methods above.
Regular expressions can make your search much more powerful (case insensitive for example).


Regular Expression Modifiers

Modifiers can be used to perform case-insensitive more global searches:

Modifier Description Try it
i Perform case-insensitive matching Try it »
g Perform a global match (find all matches rather than stopping after the first match) Try it »
m Perform multiline matching Try it »

Regular Expression Patterns

Brackets are used to find a range of characters:

Expression Description Try it
[abc] Find any of the characters between the brackets Try it »
[0-9] Find any of the digits between the brackets Try it »
(x|y) Find any of the alternatives separated with | Try it »

Metacharacters are characters with a special meaning:

Metacharacter Description Try it
\d Find a digit Try it »
\s Find a whitespace character Try it »
\b Find a match at the beginning or at the end of a word Try it »
\uxxxx Find the Unicode character specified by the hexadecimal number xxxx Try it »

Quantifiers define quantities:

Quantifier Description Try it
n+ Matches any string that contains at least one n Try it »
n* Matches any string that contains zero or more occurrences of n Try it »
n? Matches any string that contains zero or one occurrences of n Try it »

Using the RegExp Object

In JavaScript, the RegExp object is a regular expression object with predefined properties and methods.


Using test()

The test() method is a RegExp expression method.

It searches a string for a pattern, and returns true or false, depending on the result.

The following example searches a string for the character “e”:

Example

var patt = /e/;
patt.test(“The best things in life are free!”);

Since there is an “e” in the string, the output of the code above will be:

true

Try it Yourself »

You don’t have to put the regular expression in a variable first. The two lines above can be shortened to one:

/e/.test(“The best things in life are free!”);

Using exec()

The exec() method is a RegExp expression method.

It searches a string for a specified pattern, and returns the found text.

If no match is found, it returns null.

The following example searches a string for the character “e”:

Example 1

/e/.exec(“The best things in life are free!”);

Since there is an “e” in the string, the output of the code above will be:

e

Try it Yourself »


Complete RegExp Reference

For a complete reference, go to our Complete JavaScript RegExp Reference.

The reference contains descriptions and examples of all RegExp properties and methods.