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PostgreSQL Reference Manual - Volume 1 - SQL Language Reference
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
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ISBN 0954612027
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7.7.3 POSIX Regular Expressions

Table 7-11 lists the available operators for pattern matching using POSIX regular expressions.

Table 7-11: Regular Expression Match Operators
Operator Description
~ Matches regular expression, case sensitive
e.g. 'thomas' ~ '.*thomas.*'
~* Matches regular expression, case insensitive
e.g. 'thomas' ~* '.*Thomas.*'
!~ Does not match regular expression, case sensitive
e.g. 'thomas' !~ '.*Thomas.*'
!~* Does not match regular expression, case insensitive
e.g. 'thomas' !~* '.*vadim.*'

POSIX regular expressions provide a more powerful means for pattern matching than the LIKE and SIMILAR TO operators. Many Unix tools such as egrep, sed, or awk use a pattern matching language that is similar to the one described here.

A regular expression is a character sequence that is an abbreviated definition of a set of strings (a regular set). A string is said to match a regular expression if it is a member of the regular set described by the regular expression. As with LIKE, pattern characters match string characters exactly unless they are special characters in the regular expression language--but regular expressions use different special characters than LIKE does. Unlike LIKE patterns, a regular expression is allowed to match anywhere within a string, unless the regular expression is explicitly anchored to the beginning or end of the string.

Some examples:

'abc' ~ 'abc'    true
'abc' ~ '^a'     true
'abc' ~ '(b|d)'  true
'abc' ~ '^(b|c)' false

The substring function with two parameters, substring(string from pattern), provides extraction of a substring that matches a POSIX regular expression pattern. It returns null if there is no match, otherwise the portion of the text that matched the pattern. But if the pattern contains any parentheses, the portion of the text that matched the first parenthesized subexpression (the one whose left parenthesis comes first) is returned. You can put parentheses around the whole expression if you want to use parentheses within it without triggering this exception. If you need parentheses in the pattern before the subexpression you want to extract, see the non-capturing parentheses described below.

Some examples:

substring('foobar' from 'o.b')     oob
substring('foobar' from 'o(.)b')   o

The regexp_replace function provides substitution of new text for substrings that match POSIX regular expression patterns. It has the syntax regexp_replace(source, pattern, replacement [, flags ]). The source string is returned unchanged if there is no match to the pattern. If there is a match, the source string is returned with the replacement string substituted for the matching substring. The replacement string can contain \n, where n is 1 through 9, to indicate that the source substring matching the n'th parenthesized subexpression of the pattern should be inserted, and it can contain \& to indicate that the substring matching the entire pattern should be inserted. Write \\ if you need to put a literal backslash in the replacement text. (As always, remember to double backslashes written in literal constant strings, assuming escape string syntax is used.) The flags parameter is an optional text string containing zero or more single-letter flags that change the function's behavior. Flag i specifies case-insensitive matching, while flag g specifies replacement of each matching substring rather than only the first one.

Some examples:

regexp_replace('foobarbaz', 'b..', 'X')
                                   fooXbaz
regexp_replace('foobarbaz', 'b..', 'X', 'g')
                                   fooXX
regexp_replace('foobarbaz', 'b(..)', E'X\\1Y', 'g')
                                   fooXarYXazY

PostgreSQL's regular expressions are implemented using a package written by Henry Spencer. Much of the description of regular expressions below is copied verbatim from his manual entry.

ISBN 0954612027PostgreSQL Reference Manual - Volume 1 - SQL Language ReferenceSee the print edition