Skip site navigation (1)Skip section navigation (2)

FreeBSD Manual Pages


home | help
PCRE2PATTERN(3)		   Library Functions Manual	       PCRE2PATTERN(3)

       PCRE2 - Perl-compatible regular expressions (revised API)


       The  syntax and semantics of the	regular	expressions that are supported
       by PCRE2	are described in detail	below. There is	a quick-reference syn-
       tax  summary  in	the pcre2syntax	page. PCRE2 tries to match Perl	syntax
       and semantics as	closely	as it can.  PCRE2 also supports	some  alterna-
       tive  regular  expression syntax	(which does not	conflict with the Perl
       syntax) 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 Ex-
       pressions", published by	O'Reilly, covers regular expressions in	 great
       detail.	This description of PCRE2's regular expressions	is intended as
       reference material.

       This document discusses the regular expression patterns that  are  sup-
       ported  by  PCRE2  when	its  main matching function, pcre2_match(), is
       used.   PCRE2   also   has   an	  alternative	 matching    function,
       pcre2_dfa_match(),  which  matches  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 function, and	how it differs from the	 normal	 func-
       tion, are discussed in the pcre2matching	page.


       A  number  of options that can be passed	to pcre2_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 to-
       gether right at the start of the	pattern	string,	and the	 letters  must
       be in upper case.

   UTF support

       In the 8-bit and	16-bit PCRE2 libraries,	characters may be coded	either
       as single code units, or	as multiple UTF-8 or UTF-16 code units.	UTF-32
       can  be	specified  for the 32-bit library, in which case it constrains
       the character values to valid  Unicode  code  points.  To  process  UTF
       strings,	 PCRE2	must be	built to include Unicode support (which	is the
       default). When using UTF	strings	you must  either  call	the  compiling
       function	 with  one or both of the PCRE2_UTF or PCRE2_MATCH_INVALID_UTF
       options,	or the pattern must start with the  special  sequence  (*UTF),
       which  is  equivalent  to setting the relevant PCRE2_UTF. How setting a
       UTF mode	affects	pattern	matching is mentioned in several places	below.
       There is	also a summary of features in the pcre2unicode page.

       Some applications that allow their users	to supply patterns may wish to
       restrict	 them  to  non-UTF  data  for	security   reasons.   If   the
       PCRE2_NEVER_UTF	option is passed to pcre2_compile(), (*UTF) is not al-
       lowed, and its appearance in a pattern 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 PCRE2_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 256 via a lookup table. If also causes	upper/lower casing op-
       erations	 to  use  Unicode  properties  for characters with code	points
       greater than 127, even when UTF is not set.

       Some applications that allow their users	to supply patterns may wish to
       restrict	 them  for  security reasons. If the PCRE2_NEVER_UCP option is
       passed to pcre2_compile(), (*UCP) is not	allowed, and its appearance in
       a pattern causes	an error.

   Locking out empty string matching

       Starting	a pattern with (*NOTEMPTY) or (*NOTEMPTY_ATSTART) has the same
       effect as passing the PCRE2_NOTEMPTY or	PCRE2_NOTEMPTY_ATSTART	option
       to whichever matching function is subsequently called to	match the pat-
       tern. These options lock	out the	matching of empty strings, either  en-
       tirely, or only at the start of the subject.

   Disabling auto-possessification

       If  a pattern starts with (*NO_AUTO_POSSESS), it	has the	same effect as
       setting the PCRE2_NO_AUTO_POSSESS option. This stops PCRE2 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 pcre2api	documentation.

   Disabling start-up optimizations

       If  a  pattern  starts  with (*NO_START_OPT), it	has the	same effect as
       setting the PCRE2_NO_START_OPTIMIZE option. This	disables several opti-
       mizations  for  quickly	reaching "no match" results. For more details,
       see the pcre2api	documentation.

   Disabling automatic anchoring

       If a pattern starts with	(*NO_DOTSTAR_ANCHOR), it has the  same	effect
       as  setting the PCRE2_NO_DOTSTAR_ANCHOR option. This disables optimiza-
       tions that apply	to patterns whose top-level branches all start with .*
       (match  any  number of arbitrary	characters). For more details, see the
       pcre2api	documentation.

   Disabling JIT compilation

       If a pattern that starts	with (*NO_JIT) is  successfully	 compiled,  an
       attempt	by  the	 application  to apply the JIT optimization by calling
       pcre2_jit_compile() is ignored.

   Setting match resource limits

       The pcre2_match() function contains a counter that is incremented every
       time it goes round its main loop. The caller of pcre2_match() can set a
       limit on	this counter, which therefore limits the amount	 of  computing
       resource	used for a match. The maximum depth of nested backtracking can
       also be limited;	this indirectly	restricts the amount  of  heap	memory
       that  is	 used,	but there is also an explicit memory limit that	can be

       These facilities	are provided to	catch runaway matches  that  are  pro-
       voked  by patterns with huge matching trees. A common example is	a pat-
       tern with nested	unlimited repeats applied to a long string  that  does
       not  match. When	one of these limits is reached,	pcre2_match() gives an
       error return. The limits	can also be set	by items at the	start  of  the
       pattern of the form


       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
       pcre2_match()  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. The heap limit is	specified in kibibytes (units of  1024

       Prior  to  release  10.30, LIMIT_DEPTH was called LIMIT_RECURSION. This
       name is still recognized	for backwards compatibility.

       The heap	limit applies only when	the pcre2_match() or pcre2_dfa_match()
       interpreters are	used for matching. It does not apply to	JIT. The match
       limit is	used (but in a different way) when JIT is being	used, or  when
       pcre2_dfa_match() is called, to limit computing resource	usage by those
       matching	functions. The depth limit is ignored by JIT but  is  relevant
       for  DFA	 matching, which uses function recursion for recursions	within
       the pattern and for lookaround assertions and atomic  groups.  In  this
       case, the depth limit controls the depth	of such	recursion.

   Newline conventions

       PCRE2  supports six 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, any Unicode newline sequence,  or  the  NUL  character  (binary
       zero).  The  pcre2api  page  has	further	discussion about newlines, and
       shows how to set	the newline convention when calling pcre2_compile().

       It is also possible to specify a	newline	convention by starting a  pat-
       tern string with	one of the following sequences:

	 (*CR)	      carriage return
	 (*LF)	      linefeed
	 (*CRLF)      carriage return, followed	by linefeed
	 (*ANYCRLF)   any of the three above
	 (*ANY)	      all Unicode newline sequences
	 (*NUL)	      the NUL character	(binary	zero)

       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 se-
       quence, the pattern


       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  PCRE2_DOTALL  is not set, and the behaviour	of \N when not
       followed	by an opening brace. However, it does not affect what  the  \R
       escape  sequence	 matches.  By default, this is any Unicode newline se-
       quence, for Perl	compatibility. However,	this can be changed;  see  the
       next section and	the description	of \R in the section entitled "Newline
       sequences" below. A change of \R	setting	can be combined	with a	change
       of newline convention.

   Specifying what \R matches

       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
       PCRE2_BSR_ANYCRLF  at compile time. This	effect can also	be achieved by
       starting	a pattern with (*BSR_ANYCRLF).	For  completeness,  (*BSR_UNI-
       CODE) is	also recognized, corresponding to PCRE2_BSR_UNICODE.


       PCRE2  can be compiled to run in	an environment that uses EBCDIC	as its
       character code instead of 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.


       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 PCRE2_CASELESS option), letters are
       matched independently of	case.

       The power of regular expressions	comes from the ability to include wild
       cards, character	classes, 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

       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 group or control verb
	 )	end group or control verb
	 *	0 or more quantifier
	 +	1 or more quantifier; also "possessive quantifier"
	 ?	0 or 1 quantifier; also	quantifier minimizer
	 {	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 (if followed by POSIX syntax)
	 ]	terminates the character class

       The following sections describe the use of each of the metacharacters.


       The backslash character has several uses. Firstly, if it	is followed by
       a  character that is not	a digit	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 must 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 digits	and letters have any  special  meaning
       after  a	 backslash.  All  other	characters (in particular, those whose
       code points are greater than 127) are treated as	literals.

       If a pattern is compiled	with the  PCRE2_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 treat all	characters in a	sequence as literals, you  can
       do so by	putting	them between \Q	and \E.	This is	different from Perl in
       that $ and @ are	handled	as literals in	\Q...\E	 sequences  in	PCRE2,
       whereas	in Perl, $ and @ cause variable	interpolation. Also, Perl does
       "double-quotish backslash interpolation"	on any backslashes between  \Q
       and  \E which, its documentation	says, "may lead	to confusing results".
       PCRE2 treats a backslash	between	\Q and \E just like any	other  charac-
       ter. Note the following examples:

	 Pattern	    PCRE2 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
	 \QA\B\E	    A\B		   A\B
	 \Q\\E		    \		   \\E

       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	by  a  closing
       square bracket.

   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 in a pattern, but	when a pattern
       is being	prepared by text editing, it is	often easier to	use one	of the
       following  escape  sequences  instead of	the binary character it	repre-
       sents. In an ASCII or Unicode environment, these	escapes	 are  as  fol-

	 \a	     alarm, that is, the BEL character (hex 07)
	 \cx	     "control-x", where	x is any printable ASCII character
	 \e	     escape (hex 1B)
	 \f	     form feed (hex 0C)
	 \n	     linefeed (hex 0A)
	 \r	     carriage return (hex 0D) (but see below)
	 \t	     tab (hex 09)
	 \0dd	     character with octal code 0dd
	 \ddd	     character with octal code ddd, or backreference
	 \o{ddd..}   character with octal code ddd..
	 \xhh	     character with hex	code hh
	 \x{hhh..}   character with hex	code hhh..
	 \N{U+hhh..} character with Unicode hex	code point hhh..

       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.

       Characters whose	code points are	less than 256 can be defined by	either
       of the two syntaxes for \x or by	an octal sequence. There is no differ-
       ence in the way they are	handled. For example, \xdc is exactly the same
       as \x{dc} or \334.  However, using the braced versions does  make  such
       sequences easier	to read.

       Support	is  available  for some	ECMAScript (aka	JavaScript) escape se-
       quences via two compile-time options. If	PCRE2_ALT_BSUX is set, the se-
       quence  \x  followed  by	{ is not recognized. Only if \x	is followed by
       two hexadecimal digits is it recognized as a character  escape.	Other-
       wise  it	 is interpreted	as a literal "x" character. In this mode, sup-
       port for	code points greater than 256 is	provided by \u,	which must  be
       followed	 by  four hexadecimal digits; otherwise	it is interpreted as a
       literal "u" character.

       PCRE2_EXTRA_ALT_BSUX has	the same effect	as PCRE2_ALT_BSUX and, in  ad-
       dition, \u{hhh..} is recognized as the character	specified by hexadeci-
       mal code	point.	There may be any number	of  hexadecimal	 digits.  This
       syntax is from ECMAScript 6.

       The  \N{U+hhh..}	escape sequence	is recognized only when	PCRE2 is oper-
       ating in	UTF mode. Perl also uses \N{name}  to  specify	characters  by
       Unicode	name;  PCRE2  does  not	support	this. Note that	when \N	is not
       followed	by an opening brace (curly bracket) it has an entirely differ-
       ent meaning, matching any character that	is not a newline.

       There  are some legacy applications where the escape sequence \r	is ex-
       pected to match a newline. If the  PCRE2_EXTRA_ESCAPED_CR_IS_LF	option
       is  set,	 \r  in	 a  pattern is converted to \n so that it matches a LF
       (linefeed) instead of a CR (carriage return) character.

       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	code unit following \c has a value  less  than
       32 or greater than 126, a compile-time error occurs.

       When  PCRE2  is	compiled in EBCDIC mode, \N{U+hhh..} is	not supported.
       \a, \e, \f, \n, \r, and \t generate the appropriate EBCDIC code values.
       The \c escape is	processed as specified for Perl	in the perlebcdic doc-
       ument. 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?  be-
       comes 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, PCRE2 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 se-
       quence \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 backreferences 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 numeri-
       cal character code points, and \g{} to specify backreferences. The fol-
       lowing paragraphs describe the old, ambiguous syntax.

       The handling of a backslash followed by a digit other than 0 is compli-
       cated, and Perl has changed over	time, causing PCRE2 also to change.

       Outside a character class, PCRE2	reads the digit	and any	following dig-
       its as a	decimal	number.	If the number is less than 10, begins with the
       digit 8 or 9, or	if there are  at  least	 that  many  previous  capture
       groups  in the expression, the entire sequence is taken as a backrefer-
       ence. A description of how this works is	 given	later,	following  the
       discussion  of parenthesized groups.  Otherwise,	up to three octal dig-
       its are read to form a character	code.

       Inside a	character class, PCRE2 handles \8 and \9 as the	literal	 char-
       acters  "8"  and	"9", and otherwise reads up to three octal digits fol-
       lowing the backslash, using them	to generate a data character. Any sub-
       sequent	digits	stand for themselves. For example, outside a character

	 \040	is another way of writing an ASCII space
	 \40	is the same, provided there are	fewer than 40
		   previous capture groups
	 \7	is always a backreference
	 \11	might be a backreference, 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 backreference, otherwise the
		   character with octal	code 113
	 \377	might be a backreference, otherwise
		   the value 255 (decimal)
	 \81	is always a backreference

       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.

   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    no greater than 0xff
	 16-bit	non-UTF	mode   no greater than 0xffff
	 32-bit	non-UTF	mode   no greater than 0xffffffff
	 All UTF modes	       no greater than 0x10ffff	and a valid code point

       Invalid Unicode code points are all those in the	range 0xd800 to	0xdfff
       (the so-called "surrogate" code points).	The check  for	these  can  be
       disabled	 by  the  caller  of  pcre2_compile()  by  setting  the	option
       PCRE2_EXTRA_ALLOW_SURROGATE_ESCAPES. However, this is possible only  in
       UTF-8  and  UTF-32 modes, because these values are not representable in

   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).

       When not	followed by an opening brace, \N is not	allowed	in a character
       class.	\B,  \R, and \X	are not	special	inside a character class. Like
       other unrecognized alphabetic escape sequences, they  cause  an	error.
       Outside a character class, these	sequences have different meanings.

   Unsupported escape sequences

       In  Perl,  the  sequences  \F, \l, \L, \u, and \U are recognized	by its
       string handler and used to modify the case of following characters.  By
       default,	 PCRE2	does  not  support these escape	sequences in patterns.
       However,	if either of the PCRE2_ALT_BSUX	 or  PCRE2_EXTRA_ALT_BSUX  op-
       tions  is set, \U matches a "U" character, and \u can be	used to	define
       a character by code point, as described above.

   Absolute and	relative backreferences

       The sequence \g followed	by a signed or unsigned	number,	optionally en-
       closed  in  braces,  is	an absolute or relative	backreference. A named
       backreference can be coded as \g{name}.	Backreferences	are  discussed
       later, following	the discussion of parenthesized	groups.

   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	capture	group as a subroutine.
       Details are discussed later.   Note  that  \g{...}  (Perl  syntax)  and
       \g<...> (Oniguruma syntax) are not synonymous. The former is a backref-
       erence; 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
	 \N	any character that is not a newline
	 \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

       The \N escape sequence has the same meaning as  the  "."	 metacharacter
       when  PCRE2_DOTALL is not set, but setting PCRE2_DOTALL does not	change
       the meaning of \N. Note that when \N is followed	by an opening brace it
       has a different meaning.	See the	section	entitled "Non-printing charac-
       ters" above for details.	Perl also uses \N{name}	to specify  characters
       by Unicode name;	PCRE2 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

       The  default  \s	 characters  are HT (9), LF (10), VT (11), FF (12), CR
       (13), and space (32), which are defined as white	space in the  "C"  lo-
       cale.  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 PCRE2's low-valued character tables, and may vary if locale-
       specific	matching is taking place (see "Locale support" in the pcre2api
       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
       be different 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	 effi-
       ciency  reasons.	 If  the  PCRE2_UCP  option  is	 set, the behaviour is
       changed so that Unicode properties  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 PCRE2_UCP
       affects \b, and \B because they are defined in  terms  of  \w  and  \W.
       Matching	these sequences	is noticeably slower when PCRE2_UCP is set.

       The  sequences  \h, \H, \v, and \V, in contrast to the other sequences,
       which match only	ASCII characters by default, always match  a  specific
       list  of	 code  points, whether or not PCRE2_UCP	is set.	The horizontal
       space characters	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  code  points  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:


       This is an example of an	"atomic	group",	details	of which are given be-
       low.  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). Because this is an
       atomic group, the two-character sequence	is treated as  a  single  unit
       that cannot be split.

       In other	modes, two additional characters whose code points are greater
       than 255	are added: LS (line separator, U+2028) and PS (paragraph sepa-
       rator,  U+2029).	 Unicode 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
       PCRE2_BSR_ANYCRLF at compile time. (BSR is an  abbrevation  for	"back-
       slash R".) This can be made the default when PCRE2 is built; if this is
       the case, the other behaviour can be requested via  the	PCRE2_BSR_UNI-
       CODE  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.  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 ex-
       ample, a	pattern	can start with:


       They  can also be combined with the (*UTF) or (*UCP) special sequences.
       Inside a	character class, \R is treated as an unrecognized  escape  se-
       quence, and causes an error.

   Unicode character properties

       When  PCRE2  is	built  with Unicode support (the default), three addi-
       tional escape sequences that match characters with specific  properties
       are available. They can be used in any mode, though in 8-bit and	16-bit
       non-UTF modes these sequences are of course limited to testing  charac-
       ters  whose code	points are less	than U+0100 and	U+10000, respectively.
       In 32-bit non-UTF mode, code points greater than	0x10ffff (the  Unicode
       limit)  may  be	encountered. These are all treated as being in the Un-
       known script and	with an	unassigned type. The  extra  escape  sequences

	 \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 case-sensitive. There is
       support for Unicode script names, Unicode general category  properties,
       "Any",  which  matches any character (including newline), and some spe-
       cial PCRE2 properties (described	in  the	 next  section).   Other  Perl
       properties such as "InMusicalSymbols" are not supported by PCRE2.  Note
       that \P{Any} does not match any characters, so always  causes  a	 match

       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:


       Unassigned characters (and in non-UTF 32-bit mode, characters with code
       points greater than 0x10FFFF) are assigned the "Unknown"	script.	Others
       that  are not part of an	identified script are lumped together as "Com-
       mon". The current list of scripts is:

       Adlam, Ahom, Anatolian_Hieroglyphs, Arabic,  Armenian,  Avestan,	 Bali-
       nese,  Bamum,  Bassa_Vah,  Batak, Bengali, Bhaiksuki, Bopomofo, Brahmi,
       Braille,	Buginese, Buhid, Canadian_Aboriginal, Carian,  Caucasian_Alba-
       nian,  Chakma,  Cham,  Cherokee,	Chorasmian, Common, Coptic, Cuneiform,
       Cypriot,	Cyrillic, Deseret, Devanagari, Dives_Akuru,  Dogra,  Duployan,
       Egyptian_Hieroglyphs, Elbasan, Elymaic, Ethiopic, Georgian, Glagolitic,
       Gothic, Grantha,	Greek, Gujarati, Gunjala_Gondi,	Gurmukhi, Han, Hangul,
       Hanifi_Rohingya,	 Hanunoo,  Hatran, Hebrew, Hiragana, Imperial_Aramaic,
       Inherited,  Inscriptional_Pahlavi,  Inscriptional_Parthian,   Javanese,
       Kaithi,	Kannada,  Katakana, Kayah_Li, Kharoshthi, Khitan_Small_Script,
       Khmer, Khojki, Khudawadi, Lao, Latin,  Lepcha,  Limbu,  Linear_A,  Lin-
       ear_B,  Lisu,  Lycian,  Lydian,	Mahajani, Makasar, Malayalam, Mandaic,
       Manichaean,   Marchen,	Masaram_Gondi,	 Medefaidrin,	 Meetei_Mayek,
       Mende_Kikakui, Meroitic_Cursive,	Meroitic_Hieroglyphs, Miao, Modi, Mon-
       golian, Mro, Multani,  Myanmar,	Nabataean,  Nandinagari,  New_Tai_Lue,
       Newa,  Nko,  Nushu, Nyakeng_Puachue_Hmong, Ogham, Ol_Chiki, Old_Hungar-
       ian, Old_Italic,	Old_North_Arabian, Old_Permic,	Old_Persian,  Old_Sog-
       dian,   Old_South_Arabian,   Old_Turkic,	 Oriya,	 Osage,	 Osmanya,  Pa-
       hawh_Hmong,    Palmyrene,    Pau_Cin_Hau,     Phags_Pa,	   Phoenician,
       Psalter_Pahlavi,	 Rejang,  Runic,  Samaritan, Saurashtra, Sharada, Sha-
       vian, Siddham, SignWriting, Sinhala,  Sogdian,  Sora_Sompeng,  Soyombo,
       Sundanese,  Syloti_Nagri,  Syriac, Tagalog, Tagbanwa, Tai_Le, Tai_Tham,
       Tai_Viet, Takri,	Tamil, Tangut, Telugu, Thaana,	Thai,  Tibetan,	 Tifi-
       nagh, Tirhuta, Ugaritic,	Unknown, Vai, Wancho, Warang_Citi, Yezidi, 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

       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:


       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 whose code
       points are in the range U+D800 to U+DFFF. These characters are no  dif-
       ferent  to any other character when PCRE2 is not	in UTF mode (using the
       16-bit or 32-bit	library).  However, they  are  not  valid  in  Unicode
       strings and so cannot be	tested by PCRE2	in UTF mode, unless UTF	valid-
       ity  checking  has   been   turned   off	  (see	 the   discussion   of
       PCRE2_NO_UTF_CHECK in the pcre2api page).

       The  long  synonyms  for	 property  names  that	Perl supports (such as
       \p{Letter}) are not supported by	PCRE2, 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 PCRE2 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 PCRE2 by default,	though	you  can  make
       them  do	 so by setting the PCRE2_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).  Unicode supports various kinds of composite character  by
       giving  each  character	a grapheme breaking property, and having rules
       that use	these properties to define the boundaries of extended grapheme
       clusters.  The rules are	defined	in Unicode Standard Annex 29, "Unicode
       Text Segmentation". Unicode 11.0.0 abandoned the	use of	some  previous
       properties  that	had been used for emojis.  Instead it introduced vari-
       ous emoji-specific properties. PCRE2  uses  only	 the  Extended	Picto-
       graphic property.

       \X  always  matches  at least one character. Then it decides whether to
       add additional characters according to the following rules for ending a

       1. End at the end of the	subject	string.

       2.  Do not end between CR and LF; otherwise end after any control char-

       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  or  the
       "zero-width  joiner" character. Characters with the "mark" property al-
       ways have the "extend" grapheme breaking	property.

       5. Do not end after prepend characters.

       6. Do not break within emoji modifier sequences or emoji	zwj sequences.
       That is,	do not break between characters	with the Extended_Pictographic
       property.  Extend and ZWJ characters are	allowed	 between  the  charac-

       7.  Do not break	within emoji flag sequences. That is, do not break be-
       tween regional indicator	(RI) characters	if there are an	odd number  of
       RI characters before the	break point.

       8. Otherwise, end the cluster.

   PCRE2's additional properties

       As  well	as the standard	Unicode	properties described above, PCRE2 sup-
       ports four more that make it possible to	convert	traditional escape se-
       quences	such  as \w and	\s to use Unicode properties. PCRE2 uses these
       non-standard, non-Perl properties internally  when  PCRE2_UCP  is  set.
       However,	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; in PCRE1 it used to  ex-
       clude  vertical	tab,  for  Perl	 compatibility,	 but Perl changed. 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

       In normal use, the escape sequence \K  causes  any  previously  matched
       characters not to be included in	the final matched sequence that	is re-
       turned. For example, the	pattern:


       matches "foobar", but reports that it has matched "bar".	 \K  does  not
       interact	with anchoring in any way. The pattern:


       matches	only  when  the	 subject  begins with "foobar" (in single line
       mode), though it	again reports the matched string as "bar".  This  fea-
       ture  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	 exam-
       ple, when the pattern


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

       Perl  documents	that  the use of \K within assertions is "not well de-
       fined". In PCRE2, \K is acted upon when it occurs inside	 positive  as-
       sertions,  but is ignored in negative assertions. Note that when	a pat-
       tern such as (?=ab\K) matches, the reported start of the	match  can  be
       greater	than  the end of the match. Using \K in	a lookbehind assertion
       at the start of a pattern can also lead to odd  effects.	 For  example,
       consider	this pattern:


       If  the	subject	 is  "foobar", a call to pcre2_match() with a starting
       offset of 3 succeeds and	reports	the matching string as "foobar",  that
       is,  the	 start	of  the	reported match is earlier than where 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 groups 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,	an "invalid escape sequence" error is generated.

       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. When
       PCRE2 is	built with Unicode support, the	meanings of \w and \W  can  be
       changed by setting the PCRE2_UCP	option.	When this is done, it also af-
       fects \b	and \B.	Neither	PCRE2 nor Perl has a separate "start of	 word"
       or  "end	 of  word" metasequence. 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 PCRE2_NOTBOL or PCRE2_NOTEOL options,
       which affect only the behaviour of the circumflex and dollar  metachar-
       acters.	However,  if the startoffset argument of pcre2_match() is non-
       zero, indicating	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 matching process,	as specified by	the  startoff-
       set  argument  of  pcre2_match().  It differs from \A when the value of
       startoffset is non-zero.	By calling pcre2_match() multiple  times  with
       appropriate  arguments,	you  can  mimic	Perl's /g option, and it is in
       this kind of implementation where \G can	be useful.

       Note, however, that PCRE2's implementation of \G,  being	 true  at  the
       starting	 character  of	the matching process, is subtly	different from
       Perl's, which defines it	as true	at the end of the previous  match.  In
       Perl,  these  can  be  different	when the previously matched string was
       empty. Because PCRE2 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.


       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. These two	metacharacters
       are concerned with matching the starts and ends of lines. If  the  new-
       line  convention	is set so that only the	two-character sequence CRLF is
       recognized as a newline,	isolated CR and	LF characters are  treated  as
       ordinary	data characters, and are not recognized	as newlines.

       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 pcre2_match() is	non-zero, or if	PCRE2_NOTBOL is	 set,  circum-
       flex  can  never	match if the PCRE2_MULTILINE option is unset. Inside a
       character class,	circumflex has an entirely different meaning (see  be-

       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  be-
       fore  a newline at the end of the string	(by default), unless PCRE2_NO-
       TEOL is set. Note, however, that	it does	not actually  match  the  new-
       line.  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. Dollar has no special meaning in a charac-
       ter class.

       The meaning of dollar can be changed so that it	matches	 only  at  the
       very  end  of the string, by setting the	PCRE2_DOLLAR_ENDONLY option at
       compile time. This does not affect the \Z assertion.

       The meanings of the circumflex and dollar metacharacters	are changed if
       the  PCRE2_MULTILINE  option  is	 set.  When this is the	case, a	dollar
       character matches before	any newlines in	the string, as well as at  the
       very  end, and 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, for compatibility with	Perl. However,
       this can	be changed by setting the PCRE2_ALT_CIRCUMFLEX option.

       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
       pcre2_match()  is  non-zero. The	PCRE2_DOLLAR_ENDONLY option is ignored
       if PCRE2_MULTILINE is set.

       When the	newline	convention (see	"Newline  conventions"	below)	recog-
       nizes  the two-character	sequence CRLF as a newline, this is preferred,
       even if the single characters CR	and LF are  also  recognized  as  new-
       lines.  For  example,  if  the newline convention is "any", a multiline
       mode circumflex matches before "xyz" in the string "abc\r\nxyz"	rather
       than  after  CR,	even though CR on its own is a valid newline. (It also
       matches at the very start of the	string,	of course.)

       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 PCRE2_MULTILINE  is


       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
       PCRE2_DOTALL  option  is	 set, a	dot matches any	one character, without
       exception.  If the two-character	sequence CRLF is present in  the  sub-
       ject 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 when not followed by an opening brace behaves
       like a dot, except that it is not affected by the PCRE2_DOTALL  option.
       In  other words,	it matches any character except	one that signifies the
       end of a	line.

       When \N is followed by an opening brace it has a	different meaning. See
       the  section entitled "Non-printing characters" above for details. Perl
       also uses \N{name} to specify characters	by Unicode  name;  PCRE2  does
       not support this.


       Outside	a character class, the escape sequence \C matches any one code
       unit, whether or	not a UTF mode is set. In the 8-bit library, one  code
       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 code units, matching
       one unit	with \C	in UTF-8 or UTF-16 mode	means that  the	 rest  of  the
       string may start	with a malformed UTF character.	This has undefined re-
       sults, because PCRE2 assumes that it is matching	character by character
       in a valid UTF string (by default it checks the subject string's	valid-
       ity at  the  start  of  processing  unless  the	PCRE2_NO_UTF_CHECK  or
       PCRE2_MATCH_INVALID_UTF option is used).

       An   application	  can	lock   out  the	 use  of  \C  by  setting  the
       PCRE2_NEVER_BACKSLASH_C option when compiling a	pattern.  It  is  also
       possible	to build PCRE2 with the	use of \C permanently disabled.

       PCRE2  does  not	allow \C to appear in lookbehind assertions (described
       below) in UTF-8 or UTF-16 modes,	because	this would make	it  impossible
       to  calculate  the  length  of  the lookbehind. Neither the alternative
       matching	function pcre2_dfa_match() nor the JIT optimizer support \C in
       these UTF modes.	 The former gives a match-time error; the latter fails
       to optimize and so the match is always run using	the interpreter.

       In the 32-bit library, however, \C is always supported  (when  not  ex-
       plicitly	 locked	 out)  because	it  always matches a single code unit,
       whether or not UTF-32 is	specified.

       In general, the \C escape sequence is best avoided. However, one	way of
       using  it  that avoids the problem of malformed UTF-8 or	UTF-16 charac-
       ters is to use a	lookahead to check the length of the  next  character,
       as  in  this  pattern,  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)	|

       In this example,	a group	that starts  with  (?|	resets	the  capturing
       parentheses  numbers in each alternative	(see "Duplicate	Group 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, respec-
       tively. The character's individual bytes	are then captured by  the  ap-
       propriate number	of \C groups.


       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.  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. This
       means that, by default, an empty	class cannot be	defined.  However,  if
       the  PCRE2_ALLOW_EMPTY_CLASS option is set, a closing square bracket at
       the start does end the (empty) class.

       A character class matches a single character in the subject. 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.

       Characters  in  a class may be specified	by their code points using \o,
       \x, or \N{U+hh..} in the	usual way. When	caseless matching is set,  any
       letters	in a class represent both their	upper case and lower case ver-
       sions, so for example, a	caseless [aeiou] matches "A" as	well  as  "a",
       and  a  caseless	[^aeiou] does not match	"A", whereas a caseful version

       Characters that might indicate line breaks are  never  treated  in  any
       special	way  when matching character classes, whatever line-ending se-
       quence is  in  use,  and	 whatever  setting  of	the  PCRE2_DOTALL  and
       PCRE2_MULTILINE	options	 is  used. A class such	as [^a]	always matches
       one of these characters.

       The generic character type 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  hexadecimal digit.	In UTF modes, the PCRE2_UCP option af-
       fects 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, \R, and \X are not  special  in-
       side  a	character class. Like any other	unrecognized escape sequences,
       they cause an error. The	same is	true for \N when not  followed	by  an
       opening brace.

       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  be-
       tween  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 character,	or z.

       Perl treats a hyphen as a literal if it appears before or after a POSIX
       class (see below) or before or after a character	type escape such as as
       \d  or  \H.   However,  unless  the hyphen is the last character	in the
       class, Perl outputs a warning in	its warning  mode,  as	this  is  most
       likely  a user error. As	PCRE2 has no facility for warning, an error is
       given in	these cases.

       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.

       Ranges normally include all code	points between the start and end char-
       acters, inclusive. They can also	be used	for code points	specified  nu-
       merically,  for	example	[\000-\037]. Ranges can	include	any characters
       that are	valid for the current mode. In any  UTF	 mode,	the  so-called
       "surrogate"  characters (those whose code points	lie between 0xd800 and
       0xdfff inclusive) may not  be  specified	 explicitly  by	 default  (the
       PCRE2_EXTRA_ALLOW_SURROGATE_ESCAPES  option  disables this check). How-
       ever, ranges such as [\x{d7ff}-\x{e000}], which include the surrogates,
       are always permitted.

       There  is  a  special  case in EBCDIC environments for ranges whose end
       points are both specified as literal letters in the same	case. For com-
       patibility  with	Perl, EBCDIC code points within	the range that are not
       letters are omitted. For	example, [h-k] matches only  four  characters,
       even though the codes for h and k are 0x88 and 0x92, a range of 11 code
       points. However,	if the range is	specified  numerically,	 for  example,
       [\x88-\x92] or [h-\x92],	all code points	are included.

       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.

       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-al-
       phanumeric characters does no harm.


       Perl supports the POSIX notation	for character classes. This uses names
       enclosed	 by [: and :] within the enclosing square brackets. PCRE2 also
       supports	this notation. For example,


       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 PCRE2 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" and \s 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,


       matches "1", "2", or any	non-digit. PCRE2 (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 127 do not match	any of
       the POSIX character classes, although this may be different for charac-
       ters in the range 128-255 when locale-specific matching	is  happening.
       However,	 if the	PCRE2_UCP option is passed to pcre2_compile(), some of
       the classes are changed so that Unicode character properties are	 used.
       This  is	 achieved  by  replacing  certain POSIX	classes	with other se-
       quences,	as follows:

	 [:alnum:]  becomes  \p{Xan}
	 [:alpha:]  becomes  \p{L}
	 [:blank:]  becomes  \h
	 [:cntrl:]  becomes  \p{Cc}
	 [: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 with code  points  less
		 than 256 that have the	S (Symbol) property.

       The  other  POSIX classes are unchanged,	and match only characters with
       code points less	than 256.


       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". PCRE2	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  as-
       sertions	 that are used above in	order to give exactly the POSIX	behav-


       Vertical	bar characters are used	to separate alternative	patterns.  For
       example,	the pattern


       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 group (defined below), "succeeds" means matching the rest
       of the main pattern as well as the alternative in the group.


       The settings  of	 the  PCRE2_CASELESS,  PCRE2_MULTILINE,	 PCRE2_DOTALL,
       can be changed from within the pattern by a  sequence  of  letters  en-
       closed  between	"(?"   and ")".	These options are Perl-compatible, and
       are described in	detail in the pcre2api documentation. The option  let-
       ters are:

	 s  for	PCRE2_DOTALL

       For example, (?im) sets caseless, multiline matching. It	is also	possi-
       ble to unset these options by preceding the relevant letters with a hy-
       phen,  for  example (?-im). The two "extended" options are not indepen-
       dent; unsetting either one cancels the effects of both of them.

       A  combined  setting  and  unsetting  such  as  (?im-sx),  which	  sets
       PCRE2_CASELESS  and  PCRE2_MULTILINE  while  unsetting PCRE2_DOTALL and
       PCRE2_EXTENDED, is also permitted. Only one hyphen may  appear  in  the
       options	string.	 If a letter appears both before and after the hyphen,
       the option is unset. An empty options setting "(?)" is  allowed.	 Need-
       less to say, it has no effect.

       If  the	first character	following (? is	a circumflex, it causes	all of
       the above options to be unset. Thus, (?^) is equivalent	to  (?-imnsx).
       Letters	may  follow  the circumflex to cause some options to be	re-in-
       stated, but a hyphen may	not appear.

       The PCRE2-specific options PCRE2_DUPNAMES  and  PCRE2_UNGREEDY  can  be
       changed	in  the	 same  way as the Perl-compatible options by using the
       characters J and	U respectively.	However, these are not unset by	(?^).

       When one	of these option	changes	occurs at top level (that is, not  in-
       side  group  parentheses),  the	change applies to the remainder	of the
       pattern that follows. An	option change within a group (see below	for  a
       description of groups) affects only that	part of	the group that follows
       it, so


       matches abc and aBc and no other	strings	 (assuming  PCRE2_CASELESS  is
       not  used).   By	this means, options can	be made	to have	different set-
       tings in	different parts	of the pattern.	Any changes made in one	alter-
       native  do carry	on into	subsequent branches within the same group. For


       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.

       As  a  convenient shorthand, if any option settings are required	at the
       start of	a non-capturing	group (see the next section), the option  let-
       ters may	appear between the "?" and the ":". Thus the two patterns


       match exactly the same set of strings.

       Note:  There  are  other	 PCRE2-specific	options, applying to the whole
       pattern,	which can be set by the	application when the  compiling	 func-
       tion  is	 called.  In addition, 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 (*UTF) and	(*UCP) leading
       sequences  that can be used to set UTF and Unicode property modes; they
       are equivalent to setting the PCRE2_UTF and PCRE2_UCP options,  respec-
       tively.	However,  the  application  can	 set  the  PCRE2_NEVER_UTF and
       PCRE2_NEVER_UCP options,	which lock out	the  use  of  the  (*UTF)  and
       (*UCP) sequences.


       Groups  are  delimited  by  parentheses	(round brackets), which	can be
       nested.	Turning	part of	a pattern into a group does two	things:

       1. It localizes a set of	alternatives. For example, the pattern


       matches "cataract", "caterpillar", or "cat". Without  the  parentheses,
       it would	match "cataract", "erpillar" or	an empty string.

       2.  It  creates a "capture group". This means that, when	the whole pat-
       tern matches, the portion of the	subject	string that matched the	 group
       is  passed back to the caller, separately from the portion that matched
       the whole pattern.  (This applies  only	to  the	 traditional  matching
       function; the DFA matching function does	not support capturing.)

       Opening parentheses are counted from left to right (starting from 1) to
       obtain numbers for capture groups. 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 grouping is required without cap-
       turing. If an opening parenthesis is followed by	a question mark	and  a
       colon,  the  group  does	 not do	any capturing, and is not counted when
       computing the number of any subsequent capture groups. 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 capture groups is	65535.

       As a convenient shorthand, if any option	settings are required  at  the
       start  of  a non-capturing group, the option letters may	appear between
       the "?" and the ":". Thus the two patterns


       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 group is reached, an	option setting in one branch does affect  sub-
       sequent branches, so the	above patterns match "SUNDAY" as well as "Sat-


       Perl 5.10 introduced a feature whereby each alternative in a group uses
       the  same  numbers  for	its capturing parentheses. Such	a group	starts
       with (?|	and is itself a	non-capturing  group.  For  example,  consider
       this pattern:


       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
       whole group 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 backreference to a capture group uses the most	recent value  that  is
       set for the group. The following	pattern	matches	"abcabc" or "defdef":


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


       A relative reference such as (?-1) is no	different: it is just a	conve-
       nient way of computing an absolute group	number.

       If a condition test for a group's having	matched	refers to a non-unique
       number, the test	is true	if any group with that number has matched.

       An  alternative approach	to using this "branch reset" feature is	to use
       duplicate named groups, as described in the next	section.


       Identifying capture groups by number is simple, but it can be very hard
       to  keep	 track of the numbers in complicated patterns. Furthermore, if
       an expression is	modified, the numbers may change. To  help  with  this
       difficulty,  PCRE2  supports the	naming of capture groups. This feature
       was not added to	Perl until release 5.10. Python	had the	 feature  ear-
       lier,  and PCRE1	introduced it at release 4.0, using the	Python syntax.
       PCRE2 supports both the Perl and	the Python syntax.

       In PCRE2,  a  capture  group  can  be  named  in	 one  of  three	 ways:
       (?<name>...) or (?'name'...) as in Perl,	or (?P<name>...) as in Python.
       Names may be up to 32 code units	long. When PCRE2_UTF is	not set,  they
       may  contain  only  ASCII  alphanumeric characters and underscores, but
       must start with a non-digit. When PCRE2_UTF is set, the syntax of group
       names is	extended to allow any Unicode letter or	Unicode	decimal	digit.
       In other	words, group names must	match one of these patterns:

	 ^[_A-Za-z][_A-Za-z0-9]*\z   when PCRE2_UTF is not set
	 ^[_\p{L}][_\p{L}\p{Nd}]*\z  when PCRE2_UTF is set

       References to capture groups from other parts of	the pattern,  such  as
       backreferences,	recursion,  and	conditions, can	all be made by name as
       well as by number.

       Named capture groups are	allocated numbers as well as names, exactly as
       if  the	names were not present.	In both	PCRE2 and Perl,	capture	groups
       are primarily identified	by numbers; any	names  are  just  aliases  for
       these numbers. The PCRE2	API provides function calls for	extracting the
       complete	name-to-number translation table from a	compiled  pattern,  as
       well  as	 convenience  functions	 for extracting	captured substrings by

       Warning:	When more than one capture group has the same number,  as  de-
       scribed in the previous section,	a name given to	one of them applies to
       all of them. Perl allows	identically numbered groups to have  different
       names.  Consider	this pattern, where there are two capture groups, both
       numbered	1:


       Perl allows this, with both names AA and	BB  as	aliases	 of  group  1.
       Thus, after a successful	match, both names yield	the same value (either
       "aa" or "bb").

       In an attempt to	reduce confusion, PCRE2	does not allow the same	 group
       number to be associated with more than one name.	The example above pro-
       vokes a compile-time error. However, there is still  scope  for	confu-
       sion. Consider this pattern:


       Although	the second group number	1 is not explicitly named, the name AA
       is still	an alias for any group 1. Whether the pattern matches "aa"  or
       "bb", a reference by name to group AA yields the	matched	string.

       By  default, a name must	be unique within a pattern, except that	dupli-
       cate names are permitted	for groups with	the same number, for example:


       The duplicate name constraint can be disabled by	setting	the PCRE2_DUP-
       NAMES option at compile time, or	by the use of (?J) within the pattern,
       as described in the section entitled "Internal Option Setting" above.

       Duplicate names can be useful for patterns where	only one  instance  of
       the  named  capture group 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:


       There are five capture groups, but only one is ever set after a	match.
       The  convenience	 functions for extracting the data by name returns the
       substring for the first (and in this example, the only) group  of  that
       name that matched. This saves searching to find which numbered group it
       was. (An	alternative way	of solving this	problem	is to  use  a  "branch
       reset" group, as	described in the previous section.)

       If  you make a backreference to a non-unique named group	from elsewhere
       in the pattern, the groups 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  pattern  matches
       both "foofoo" and "barbar" but not "foobar" or "barfoo":


       If you make a subroutine	call to	a non-unique named group, the one that
       corresponds to the first	occurrence of the name is used.	In the absence
       of duplicate numbers 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 capture group has matched,
       or to check for recursion, all groups 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 de-
       tails of	the interfaces for handling  named  capture  groups,  see  the
       pcre2api	documentation.


       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 \R	escape sequence
	 the \X	escape sequence
	 an escape such	as \d or \pL that matches a single character
	 a character class
	 a backreference
	 a parenthesized group (including lookaround assertions)
	 a subroutine call (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,


       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


       matches at least	3 successive vowels, but may match many	more, whereas


       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
       code  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 code units long (and  they	may  be	 of  different

       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	 capture  groups that are referenced as	subroutines from else-
       where in	the pattern (but see also the section entitled "Defining  cap-
       ture groups for use by reference	only" below). Except for parenthesized
       groups, items that have a {0} quantifier	are omitted from the  compiled

       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  group  that
       can  match no characters	with a quantifier that has no upper limit, for


       Earlier versions	of Perl	and PCRE1 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 whenever an iteration of
       such  a group matches no	characters, matching moves on to the next item
       in the pattern instead of repeatedly matching  an  empty	 string.  This
       does  not  prevent  backtracking	into any of the	iterations if a	subse-
       quent item fails	to match.

       By default, 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 ap-
       pear between /* and */ and within the comment, individual * and / char-
       acters  may appear. An attempt to match C comments by applying the pat-


       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


       which matches one digit by preference, but can match two	if that	is the
       only way	the rest of the	pattern	matches.

       If the PCRE2_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  group is	quantified with	a minimum repeat count
       that is greater than 1 or with a	limited	maximum, more  memory  is  re-
       quired for the compiled pattern,	in proportion to the size of the mini-
       mum or maximum.

       If a pattern starts with	 .*  or	 .{0,}	and  the  PCRE2_DOTALL	option
       (equivalent  to	Perl's /s) is set, thus	allowing the dot to match new-
       lines, 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  af-
       ter  the	 first.	PCRE2 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 PCRE2_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
       backreference elsewhere in the pattern, a match at the start  may  fail
       where a later one succeeds. Consider, for example:


       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:


       It matches "ab" in the subject "aab". The use of	the backtracking  con-
       trol  verbs  (*PRUNE)  and  (*SKIP) also	disable	this optimization, and
       there is	an option, PCRE2_NO_DOTSTAR_ANCHOR, to do so explicitly.

       When a capture group is repeated, the value captured is	the  substring
       that matched the	final iteration. For example, after


       has matched "tweedledum tweedledee" the value of	the captured substring
       is "tweedledee".	However, if there are nested capture groups, the  cor-
       responding  captured  values  may have been set in previous iterations.
       For example, after


       matches "aba" the value of the second captured substring	is "b".


       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


       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 group 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:


       Perl 5.28 introduced an experimental alphabetic form starting  with  (*
       which may be easier to remember:


       This kind of parenthesized group	"locks up" the	part of	the pattern it
       contains	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 group of this type matches exactly
       the  string  of	characters  that an identical standalone pattern would
       match, if anchored at the current point in the subject string.

       Atomic groups are not capture groups. Simple cases such	as  the	 above
       example	can be thought of as a maximizing repeat that must swallow ev-
       erything	it can.	 So, while both	\d+ and	\d+? are  prepared  to	adjust
       the  number  of digits they match in order to make the rest of the pat-
       tern match, (?>\d+) can only match an entire sequence of	digits.

       Atomic groups in	general	can of course contain arbitrarily  complicated
       expressions, and	can be nested. However,	when the contents of an	atomic
       group is	just a single repeated item, as	in the example above,  a  sim-
       pler  notation, called a	"possessive quantifier"	can be used. This con-
       sists of	an additional +	character following a quantifier.  Using  this
       notation, the previous example can be rewritten as


       Note that a possessive quantifier can be	used with an entire group, for


       Possessive quantifiers are always greedy; the setting of	the  PCRE2_UN-
       GREEDY  option  is ignored. They	are a convenient notation for the sim-
       pler 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 PCRE1 copied it from there. It found  its
       way into	Perl at	release	5.10.

       PCRE2  has  an  optimization  that automatically	"possessifies" certain
       simple 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.  This feature can be	disabled by the	PCRE2_NO_AUTO-
       POSSESS option, or starting the pattern with (*NO_AUTO_POSSESS).

       When a pattern contains an unlimited repeat inside a group that can it-
       self 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


       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


       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  ex-
       ample uses [!?] rather than a single character at the end, because both
       PCRE2 and Perl have an optimization that	allows for fast	failure	when a
       single  character is used. They remember	the last single	character 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:


       sequences of non-digits cannot be broken, and failure happens quickly.


       Outside a character class, a backslash followed by a digit greater than
       0  (and	possibly further digits) is a backreference to a capture group
       earlier (that is, to its	left) in the pattern, provided there have been
       that many previous capture groups.

       However,	 if the	decimal	number following the backslash is less than 8,
       it is always taken as a backreference, and  causes  an  error  only  if
       there  are not that many	capture	groups in the entire pattern. In other
       words, the group	that is	referenced need	not be to the left of the ref-
       erence  for numbers less	than 8.	A "forward backreference" of this type
       can make	sense when a repetition	is involved and	the group to the right
       has participated	in an earlier iteration.

       It  is  not  possible  to have a	numerical "forward backreference" to a
       group whose number is 8 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. Other	forms of back-
       referencing do not suffer from this restriction.	In  particular,	 there
       is no problem when named	capture	groups are used	(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 a signed or unsigned	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 signed number is a  relative  reference.
       Consider	this example:


       The sequence \g{-1} is a	reference to the most recently started capture
       group before \g,	that is, is it equivalent to \2	in this	example. Simi-
       larly, \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 them-

       The sequence \g{+1} is a	reference to the next capture group. This kind
       of  forward  reference can be useful in patterns	that repeat. Perl does
       not support the use of +	in this	way.

       A backreference matches whatever	actually  most	recently  matched  the
       capture	group  in  the current subject string, rather than anything at
       all that	matches	the group (see "Groups 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 backreference, the	case of	letters	is relevant. For exam-


       matches "rah rah" and "RAH RAH",	but not	"RAH  rah",  even  though  the
       original	capture	group is matched caselessly.

       There  are  several  different  ways of writing backreferences to named
       capture groups. 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 backreference 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:


       A capture group that is referenced by name may appear  in  the  pattern
       before or after the reference.

       There  may be more than one backreference to the	same group. If a group
       has not actually	been used in a particular match, backreferences	to  it
       always fail by default. For example, the	pattern


       always  fails  if  it starts to match "a" rather	than "bc". However, if
       the PCRE2_MATCH_UNSET_BACKREF option is set at compile time, a backref-
       erence to an unset value	matches	an empty string.

       Because	there may be many capture groups in a pattern, all digits fol-
       lowing a	backslash are taken as part of a potential backreference  num-
       ber.  If	 the  pattern continues	with a digit character,	some delimiter
       must be used to terminate the backreference. If the  PCRE2_EXTENDED  or
       PCRE2_EXTENDED_MORE  option is set, this	can be white space. Otherwise,
       the \g{}	syntax or an empty comment (see	"Comments" below) can be used.

   Recursive backreferences

       A backreference that occurs inside the group to which it	 refers	 fails
       when  the  group	 is  first used, so, for example, (a\1)	never matches.
       However,	such references	can be useful inside repeated groups. For  ex-
       ample, the pattern


       matches any number of "a"s and also "aba", "ababbaa" etc. At each iter-
       ation of	the group, the backreference matches the character string cor-
       responding  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  backreference. This	can be done using alternation, as in the exam-
       ple above, or by	a quantifier with a minimum of zero.

       For versions of PCRE2 less than 10.25, backreferences of	this type used
       to  cause  the  group  that  they  reference to be treated as an	atomic
       group.  This restriction	no longer applies, and backtracking into  such
       groups can occur	as normal.


       An  assertion  is  a  test on the characters following or preceding the
       current matching	point that does	not consume any	characters. The	simple
       assertions  coded  as  \b,  \B,	\A,  \G, \Z, \z, ^ and $ are described

       More complicated	assertions are coded as	 parenthesized	groups.	 There
       are  two	 kinds:	 those	that look ahead	of the current position	in the
       subject string, and those that look behind it, and in each case an  as-
       sertion	may  be	 positive (must	match for the assertion	to be true) or
       negative	(must not match	for the	assertion to be	 true).	 An  assertion
       group is	matched	in the normal way, and if it is	true, matching contin-
       ues after it, but with the matching position in the subject string  re-
       set to what it was before the assertion was processed.

       The  Perl-compatible  lookaround	assertions are atomic. If an assertion
       is true,	but there is a subsequent matching failure, there is no	 back-
       tracking	 into  the assertion. However, there are some cases where non-
       atomic assertions can be	useful.	PCRE2 has some support for these,  de-
       scribed in the section entitled "Non-atomic assertions" below, but they
       are not Perl-compatible.

       A lookaround assertion may appear as the	 condition  in	a  conditional
       group  (see  below). In this case, the result of	matching the assertion
       determines which	branch of the condition	is followed.

       Assertion groups	are not	capture	groups.	If an assertion	contains  cap-
       ture  groups within it, these are counted for the purposes of numbering
       the capture groups in the whole pattern.	Within each branch of  an  as-
       sertion,	 locally  captured  substrings	may be referenced in the usual
       way. For	example, a sequence such as (.)\g{-1} can  be  used  to	 check
       that two	adjacent characters are	the same.

       When  a	branch within an assertion fails to match, any substrings that
       were captured are discarded (as happens with any	 pattern  branch  that
       fails  to  match).  A  negative	assertion  is  true  only when all its
       branches	fail to	match; this means that no captured substrings are ever
       retained	 after a successful negative assertion.	When an	assertion con-
       tains a matching	branch,	what happens depends on	the type of assertion.

       For a positive assertion, internally captured substrings	 in  the  suc-
       cessful	branch are retained, and matching continues with the next pat-
       tern item after the assertion. For a  negative  assertion,  a  matching
       branch  means  that  the	assertion is not true. If such an assertion is
       being used as a condition in a conditional group	(see below),  captured
       substrings  are	retained,  because  matching  continues	 with the "no"
       branch of the condition.	For other failing negative assertions, control
       passes to the previous backtracking point, thus discarding any captured
       strings within the assertion.

       Most assertion groups may be repeated; though it	makes no sense to  as-
       sert the	same thing several times, the side effect of capturing in pos-
       itive assertions	may occasionally be useful. However, an	assertion that
       forms  the  condition  for  a  conditional group	may not	be quantified.
       PCRE2 used to restrict the repetition of	assertions, but	 from  release
       10.35  the  only	restriction is that an unlimited maximum repetition is
       changed to be one more than the minimum.	For example, {3,}  is  treated
       as {3,4}.

   Alphabetic assertion	names

       Traditionally,  symbolic	 sequences such	as (?= and (?<=	have been used
       to specify lookaround assertions. Perl 5.28 introduced some  experimen-
       tal alphabetic alternatives which might be easier to remember. They all
       start with (* instead of	(? and must be written using lower  case  let-
       ters. PCRE2 supports the	following synonyms:

	 (*positive_lookahead:	or (*pla: is the same as (?=
	 (*negative_lookahead:	or (*nla: is the same as (?!
	 (*positive_lookbehind:	or (*plb: is the same as (?<=
	 (*negative_lookbehind:	or (*nlb: is the same as (?<!

       For  example,  (*pla:foo) is the	same assertion as (?=foo). In the fol-
       lowing sections,	the various assertions are described using the	origi-
       nal symbolic forms.

   Lookahead assertions

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


       matches a word followed by a semicolon, but does	not include the	 semi-
       colon in	the match, and


       matches	any  occurrence	 of  "foo" that	is not followed	by "bar". Note
       that the	apparently similar pattern


       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  al-
       ways  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,


       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


       is permitted, but


       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


       is  not	permitted,  because  its single	top-level branch can match two
       different lengths, but it is acceptable to PCRE2	if  rewritten  to  use
       two top-level branches:


       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  UTF-8  and  UTF-16 modes, PCRE2 does	not allow the \C escape	(which
       matches a single	code unit even in a UTF	mode) to appear	in  lookbehind
       assertions,  because  it	makes it impossible to calculate the length of
       the lookbehind. The \X and \R escapes, which can	match  different  num-
       bers of code units, are never permitted in lookbehinds.

       "Subroutine"  calls  (see below)	such as	(?2) or	(?&X) are permitted in
       lookbehinds, as long as the called capture group	matches	a fixed-length
       string.	However,  recursion, that is, a	"subroutine" call into a group
       that is already active, is not supported.

       Perl does not support backreferences in lookbehinds. PCRE2 does support
       them,  but  only	 if  certain  conditions  are met. The PCRE2_MATCH_UN-
       SET_BACKREF option must not be set, there must be no use	of (?| in  the
       pattern	(it creates duplicate group numbers), and if the backreference
       is by name, the name must be unique. Of course,	the  referenced	 group
       must  itself  match  a  fixed  length  substring. The following pattern
       matches words containing	at least two characters	 that  begin  and  end
       with the	same character:


       Possessive  quantifiers	can be used in conjunction with	lookbehind as-
       sertions	to specify efficient matching of fixed-length strings  at  the
       end of subject strings. Consider	a simple pattern such as


       when  applied  to  a  long string that does not match. Because matching
       proceeds	from left to right, PCRE2 will look for	each "a" in  the  sub-
       ject  and  then see if what follows matches the rest of the pattern. If
       the pattern is specified	as


       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


       there can be no backtracking for	the .*+	item because of	the possessive
       quantifier; it can match	only the entire	string.	The subsequent lookbe-
       hind 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,


       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


       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,


       matches	an occurrence of "baz" that is preceded	by "bar" which in turn
       is not preceded by "foo", while


       is another pattern that matches "foo" preceded by three digits and  any
       three characters	that are not "999".


       The  traditional	Perl-compatible	lookaround assertions are atomic. That
       is, if an assertion is true, but	there is a subsequent  matching	 fail-
       ure,  there  is	no backtracking	into the assertion. However, there are
       some cases where	non-atomic positive assertions can  be	useful.	 PCRE2
       provides	these using the	following syntax:

	 (*non_atomic_positive_lookahead:  or (*napla: or (?*
	 (*non_atomic_positive_lookbehind: or (*naplb: or (?<*

       Consider	 the  problem  of finding the right-most word in a string that
       also appears earlier in the string, that	is, it must  appear  at	 least
       twice  in  total.  This pattern returns the required result as captured
       substring 1:

	 ^(?x)(*napla: .* \b(\w++)) (?>	.*? \b\1\b ){2}

       For a subject such as "word1 word2 word3	word2 word3 word4" the	result
       is  "word3".  How does it work? At the start, ^(?x) anchors the pattern
       and sets	the "x"	option,	which causes white space (introduced for read-
       ability)	 to  be	 ignored. Inside the assertion,	the greedy .* at first
       consumes	the entire string, but then has	to backtrack until the rest of
       the  assertion can match	a word,	which is captured by group 1. In other
       words, when the assertion first succeeds, it  captures  the  right-most
       word in the string.

       The  current  matching point is then reset to the start of the subject,
       and the rest of the pattern match checks	for  two  occurrences  of  the
       captured	 word,	using  an  ungreedy .*?	to scan	from the left. If this
       succeeds, we are	done, but if the last word in the string does not  oc-
       cur  twice,  this  part	of  the	pattern	fails. If a traditional	atomic
       lookhead	(?= or (*pla: had been used, the assertion could not be	re-en-
       tered,  and  the	whole match would fail.	The pattern would succeed only
       if the very last	word in	the subject was	found twice.

       Using a non-atomic lookahead, however, means that when  the  last  word
       does  not  occur	 twice	in the string, the lookahead can backtrack and
       find the	second-last word, and so on, until either the match  succeeds,
       or all words have been tested.

       Two conditions must be met for a	non-atomic assertion to	be useful: the
       contents	of one or more capturing groups	must change after a  backtrack
       into  the  assertion,  and  there  must be a backreference to a changed
       group later in the pattern. If this is not the case, the	 rest  of  the
       pattern	match  fails exactly as	before because nothing has changed, so
       using a non-atomic assertion just wastes	resources.

       There is	one exception to backtracking into a non-atomic	assertion.  If
       an  (*ACCEPT)  control verb is triggered, the assertion succeeds	atomi-
       cally. That is, a subsequent match failure cannot  backtrack  into  the

       Non-atomic  assertions  are  not	 supported by the alternative matching
       function	pcre2_dfa_match(). They	are supported by JIT, but only if they
       do not contain any control verbs	such as	(*ACCEPT). (This may change in
       future).	Note that assertions that appear as conditions for conditional
       groups (see below) must be atomic.


       In  concept, a script run is a sequence of characters that are all from
       the same	Unicode	script such as Latin or	Greek. However,	 because  some
       scripts	are  commonly  used together, and because some diacritical and
       other marks are used with multiple scripts,  it	is  not	 that  simple.
       There is	a full description of the rules	that PCRE2 uses	in the section
       entitled	"Script	Runs" in the pcre2unicode documentation.

       If part of a pattern is enclosed	between	(*script_run: or (*sr:	and  a
       closing	parenthesis,  it  fails	 if the	sequence of characters that it
       matches are not a script	run. After a failure, normal backtracking  oc-
       curs.  Script runs can be used to detect	spoofing attacks using charac-
       ters that look the same,	but are	from  different	 scripts.  The	string
       ""  is	an infamous example, where the letters could be	a mix-
       ture of Latin and Cyrillic. This	pattern	ensures	that the matched char-
       acters in a sequence of non-spaces that follow white space are a	script


       To be sure that they are	all from the Latin  script  (for  example),  a
       lookahead can be	used:


       This works as long as the first character is expected to	be a character
       in that script, and not (for example)  punctuation,  which  is  allowed
       with  any script. If this is not	the case, a more creative lookahead is
       needed. For example, if digits, underscore, and dots are	 permitted  at
       the start:


       In  many	 cases,	backtracking into a script run pattern fragment	is not
       desirable. The script run can employ an atomic group to	prevent	 this.
       Because	this is	a common requirement, a	shorthand notation is provided
       by (*atomic_script_run: or (*asr:

	 (*asr:...) is the same	as (*sr:(?>...))

       Note that the atomic group is inside the	script run. Putting it outside
       would not prevent backtracking into the script run pattern.

       Support	for  script runs is not	available if PCRE2 is compiled without
       Unicode support.	A compile-time error is	given if any of	the above con-
       structs	is encountered.	Script runs are	not supported by the alternate
       matching	function, pcre2_dfa_match() because they use the  same	mecha-
       nism as capturing parentheses.

       Warning:	 The  (*ACCEPT)	 control  verb	(see below) should not be used
       within a	script run group, because it causes an immediate exit from the
       group, bypassing	the script run checking.


       It is possible to cause the matching process to obey a pattern fragment
       conditionally or	to choose between two alternative fragments, depending
       on  the result of an assertion, or whether a specific capture group has
       already been matched. The two possible forms of conditional group are:


       If the condition	is satisfied, the yes-pattern is used;	otherwise  the
       no-pattern  (if present)	is used. An absent no-pattern is equivalent to
       an empty	string (it always matches). If there are more than two	alter-
       natives	in the group, a	compile-time error occurs. Each	of the two al-
       ternatives may itself contain nested groups of any form,	including con-
       ditional	 groups;  the  restriction to two alternatives applies only at
       the level of the	condition itself. This pattern fragment	is an  example
       where the alternatives are complex:

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

       There are five kinds of condition: references to	capture	groups,	refer-
       ences to	recursion, two pseudo-conditions called	 DEFINE	 and  VERSION,
       and assertions.

   Checking for	a used capture group by	number

       If  the	text between the parentheses consists of a sequence of digits,
       the condition is	true if	a capture group	of that	number has  previously
       matched.	 If  there is more than	one capture group with the same	number
       (see the	earlier	section	about duplicate	group numbers),	the  condition
       is true if any of them have matched. An alternative notation is to pre-
       cede the	digits with a plus or minus sign. In this case,	the group num-
       ber  is relative	rather than absolute. The most recently	opened capture
       group 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	capture	group can be referenced	as (?(+1), and so  on.
       (The  value  zero in any	of these forms is not used; it provokes	a com-
       pile-time error.)

       Consider	the following pattern, which  contains	non-significant	 white
       space  to  make it more readable	(assume	the PCRE2_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 group that	tests whether or not the first
       capture group matched. If it 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.	Otherwise,  since  no-
       pattern is not present, the conditional group 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

   Checking for	a used capture group by	name

       Perl  uses  the	syntax	(?(<name>)...) or (?('name')...) to test for a
       used capture group by name. For compatibility with earlier versions  of
       PCRE1,  which had this facility before Perl, the	syntax (?(name)...) is
       also recognized.	 Note, however,	that undelimited names	consisting  of
       the  letter  R followed by digits are ambiguous (see the	following sec-
       tion). Rewriting	the above example to use a named group gives this:

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

       If the name used	in a condition of this kind is a duplicate,  the  test
       is  applied  to	all groups of the same name, and is true if any	one of
       them has	matched.

   Checking for	pattern	recursion

       "Recursion" in this sense refers	to any subroutine-like call  from  one
       part  of	 the  pattern to another, whether or not it is actually	recur-
       sive. See the sections entitled "Recursive  patterns"  and  "Groups  as
       subroutines" below for details of recursion and subroutine calls.

       If  a  condition	 is the	string (R), and	there is no capture group with
       the name	R, the condition is true if matching is	currently in a	recur-
       sion  or	 subroutine call to the	whole pattern or any capture group. If
       digits follow the letter	R, and there is	no group with that  name,  the
       condition  is  true  if	the  most recent call is into a	group with the
       given number, which must	exist somewhere	in the overall	pattern.  This
       is a contrived example that is equivalent to a+b:


       However,	 in  both  cases,  if there is a capture group with a matching
       name, the condition tests for its being set, as described in  the  sec-
       tion  above,  instead of	testing	for recursion. For example, creating a
       group with the name R1 by adding	(?<R1>)	 to  the  above	 pattern  com-
       pletely changes its meaning.

       If a name preceded by ampersand follows the letter R, for example:


       the  condition  is true if the most recent recursion is into a group of
       that name (which	must exist within the pattern).

       This condition does not check the entire	recursion stack. It tests only
       the  current  level.  If	the name used in a condition of	this kind is a
       duplicate, the test is applied to all groups 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.

   Defining capture groups for use by reference	only

       If the condition	is the string (DEFINE),	the condition is always	false,
       even if there is	a group	with the name DEFINE. In this case, there  may
       be only one alternative in the rest of the conditional group. It	is al-
       ways 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 ""
       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.

   Checking the	PCRE2 version

       Programs	that link with a PCRE2 library can check the version by	 call-
       ing  pcre2_config()  with  appropriate arguments. Users of applications
       that do not have	access to the underlying code cannot do	this.  A  spe-
       cial  "condition" called	VERSION	exists to allow	such users to discover
       which version of	PCRE2 they are dealing with by using this condition to
       match  a	string such as "yesno".	VERSION	must be	followed either	by "="
       or ">=" and a version number.  For example:


       This pattern matches "yes" if the PCRE2 version is greater or equal  to
       10.4,  or "no" otherwise. The fractional	part of	the version number may
       not contain more	than two digits.

   Assertion conditions

       If the condition	is not in any of the  above  formats,  it  must	 be  a
       parenthesized  assertion.  This may be a	positive or negative lookahead
       or lookbehind assertion.	However, it must be a traditional  atomic  as-
       sertion,	not one	of the PCRE2-specific non-atomic assertions.

       Consider	 this  pattern,	 again containing non-significant white	space,
       and with	the two	alternatives on	the second line:

	 \d{2}-[a-z]{3}-\d{2}  |  \d{2}-\d{2}-\d{2} )

       The condition is	a positive lookahead assertion	that  matches  an  op-
       tional 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 let-
       ter  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.

       When an assertion that is a condition contains capture groups, any cap-
       turing  that  occurs  in	 a matching branch is retained afterwards, for
       both positive and negative assertions, because matching always  contin-
       ues  after  the	assertion, whether it succeeds or fails. (Compare non-
       conditional assertions, for which captures are retained only for	 posi-
       tive assertions that succeed.)


       There are two ways of including comments	in patterns that are processed
       by PCRE2. In both cases,	the start of the comment  must	not  be	 in  a
       character  class,  nor  in  the middle of any other sequence of related
       characters such as (?: or a group 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
       PCRE2_EXTENDED  or  PCRE2_EXTENDED_MORE	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 characters are interpreted as	newlines is controlled
       by  an option passed to the compiling function or by a special sequence
       at the start of the pattern, as described in the	section	entitled "New-
       line 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 PCRE2_EXTENDED is set, and the default newline convention (a  sin-
       gle linefeed character) is in force:

	 abc #comment \n still comment

       On  encountering	 the # character, pcre2_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.


       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

       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,  PCRE2  cannot  support  the interpolation of	Perl code. In-
       stead, it supports special syntax for recursion of the entire  pattern,
       and also	for individual capture group recursion.	After its introduction
       in PCRE1	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
       capture	group of the given number, provided that it occurs inside that
       group. (If not, it is a non-recursive subroutine	 call,	which  is  de-
       scribed in the next section.) The special item (?R) or (?0) is a	recur-
       sive call of the	entire regular expression.

       This PCRE2 pattern solves the nested parentheses	 problem  (assume  the
       PCRE2_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  re-
       cursive match of	the pattern itself (that is, a correctly parenthesized
       substring).  Finally there is a closing parenthesis. Note the use of  a
       possessive  quantifier  to  avoid  backtracking	into sequences of non-

       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.

       Be  aware  however, that	if duplicate capture group numbers are in use,
       relative	references refer to the	earliest group	with  the  appropriate
       number. Consider, for example:

	 (?|(a)|(b)) (c) (?-2)

       The first two capture groups (a)	and (b)	are both numbered 1, and group
       (c) is number 2.	When the reference (?-2) is  encountered,  the	second
       most  recently opened parentheses has the number	1, but it is the first
       such group (the (a) group) to which the recursion refers. This would be
       the  same if an absolute	reference (?1) was used. In other words, rela-
       tive references are just	a shorthand for	computing a group number.

       It is also possible to refer to subsequent capture groups,  by  writing
       references  such	 as  (?+2). However, these cannot be recursive because
       the reference is	not inside the parentheses that	are  referenced.  They
       are  always  non-recursive  subroutine  calls, as described in the next

       An alternative approach is to use named parentheses.  The  Perl	syntax
       for  this  is  (?&name);	 PCRE1's earlier syntax	(?P>name) is also sup-
       ported. We could	rewrite	the above example as follows:

	 (?<pn>	\( ( [^()]++ | (?&pn) )* \) )

       If there	is more	than one group with the	same name, the earliest	one is

       The example pattern that	we have	been looking at	contains nested	unlim-
       ited repeats, and so the	use of a possessive  quantifier	 for  matching
       strings	of  non-parentheses  is	important when applying	the pattern to
       strings that do not match. For example, when this pattern is applied to


       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 pcre2callout documenta-
       tion). If the pattern above is matched against


       the value for the inner capturing parentheses  (numbered	 2)  is	 "ef",
       which  is  the last value taken on at the top level. If a capture group
       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

       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  group,  with  two
       different  alternatives	for the	recursive and non-recursive cases. The
       (?R) item is the	actual recursive call.

   Differences in recursion processing between PCRE2 and Perl

       Some former differences between PCRE2 and Perl no longer	exist.

       Before release 10.30, recursion processing in PCRE2 differed from  Perl
       in  that	 a  recursive  subroutine call was always treated as an	atomic
       group. That is, once it had matched some	of the subject string, it  was
       never  re-entered,  even	if it contained	untried	alternatives and there
       was a subsequent	matching failure. (Historical note:  PCRE  implemented
       recursion before	Perl did.)

       Starting	 with  release 10.30, recursive	subroutine calls are no	longer
       treated as atomic. That is, they	can be re-entered to try unused	alter-
       natives	if  there  is a	matching failure later in the pattern. This is
       now compatible with the way Perl	works. If you want a  subroutine  call
       to be atomic, you must explicitly enclose it in an atomic group.

       Supporting backtracking into recursions simplifies certain types	of re-
       cursive pattern.	For example, this pattern matches palindromic strings:


       The second branch in the	group matches a	single	central	 character  in
       the  palindrome	when there are an odd number of	characters, or nothing
       when there are an even number of	characters, but	in order  to  work  it
       has  to	be  able  to  try the second case when the rest	of the pattern
       match fails. If you want	to match typical palindromic phrases, the pat-
       tern  has  to  ignore  all  non-word characters,	which can be done like


       If run with the PCRE2_CASELESS option,  this  pattern  matches  phrases
       such  as	"A man,	a plan,	a canal: Panama!". Note	the use	of the posses-
       sive quantifier *+ to avoid backtracking	 into  sequences  of  non-word
       characters. Without this, PCRE2 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.

       Another	way  in	which PCRE2 and	Perl used to differ in their recursion
       processing is in	the handling of	captured  values.  Formerly  in	 Perl,
       when  a	group  was called recursively or as a subroutine (see the next
       section), it had	no access to any values	that were captured outside the
       recursion,  whereas  in	PCRE2 these values can be referenced. Consider
       this pattern:


       This pattern matches "bab". The first capturing parentheses match  "b",
       then in the second group, when the backreference	\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. This match used
       to fail in Perl,	but in later versions (I tried 5.024) it now works.


       If the syntax for a recursive group call	(either	by number or by	 name)
       is  used	 outside the parentheses to which it refers, it	operates a bit
       like a subroutine in a programming  language.  More  accurately,	 PCRE2
       treats the referenced group as an independent subpattern	which it tries
       to match	at the current matching	position. The called group may be  de-
       fined  before or	after the reference. A numbered	reference can be abso-
       lute or relative, as in these examples:


       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

       Like  recursions,  subroutine  calls  used to be	treated	as atomic, but
       this changed at PCRE2 release 10.30, so	backtracking  into  subroutine
       calls  can  now	occur. However,	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 group  is
       defined,	 so  if	 it  is	 used  as a subroutine,	such options cannot be
       changed for different calls. For	example, consider this pattern:


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

       The  behaviour  of  backtracking	control	verbs in groups	when called as
       subroutines is described	in the section entitled	"Backtracking verbs in
       subroutines" below.


       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 calling a group as a subroutine, possibly re-
       cursively. Here are two of the examples	used  above,  rewritten	 using
       this syntax:

	 (?<pn>	\( ( (?>[^()]+)	| \g<pn> )* \) )
	 (sens|respons)e and \g'1'ibility

       PCRE2  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:


       Note that \g{...} (Perl syntax) and \g<...> (Oniguruma syntax) are  not
       synonymous.  The	 former	is a backreference; the	latter is a subroutine


       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-

       PCRE2 provides a	similar	feature, but of	course it  cannot  obey	 arbi-
       trary  Perl  code. The feature is called	"callout". The caller of PCRE2
       provides	an external function by	putting	its entry  point  in  a	 match
       context	using  the function pcre2_set_callout(), and then passing that
       context to pcre2_match()	or pcre2_dfa_match(). If no match  context  is
       passed, or if the callout entry point is	set to NULL, callouts are dis-

       Within a	regular	expression, (?C<arg>) indicates	a point	at  which  the
       external	 function  is  to  be  called. There are two kinds of callout:
       those with a numerical argument and those with a	string argument.  (?C)
       on  its	own with no argument is	treated	as (?C0). A numerical argument
       allows the  application	to  distinguish	 between  different  callouts.
       String  arguments  were added for release 10.20 to make it possible for
       script languages	that use PCRE2 to embed	short scripts within  patterns
       in a similar way	to Perl.

       During matching,	when PCRE2 reaches a callout point, the	external func-
       tion is called. It is provided with the number or  string  argument  of
       the  callout, the position in the pattern, and one item of data that is
       also set	in the match block. The	callout	function may cause matching to
       proceed,	to backtrack, or to fail.

       By  default,  PCRE2  implements	a  number of optimizations at 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, including a  complete
       description  of	the programming	interface to the callout function, are
       given in	the pcre2callout documentation.

   Callouts with numerical arguments

       If you just want	to have	 a  means  of  identifying  different  callout
       points,	put  a	number	less than 256 after the	letter C. For example,
       this pattern has	two callout points:


       If the PCRE2_AUTO_CALLOUT flag is passed	to pcre2_compile(),  numerical
       callouts	 are  automatically installed before each item in the pattern.
       They are	all numbered 255. If there is a	conditional group in the  pat-
       tern whose condition is an assertion, an	additional callout is inserted
       just before the condition. An explicit callout may also be set at  this
       position, as in this example:


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

   Callouts with string	arguments

       A delimited string may be used instead of a number as a	callout	 argu-
       ment.  The  starting  delimiter	must be	one of ` ' " ^ % # $ { and the
       ending delimiter	is the same as the start, except for {,	where the end-
       ing  delimiter  is  }.  If  the	ending	delimiter is needed within the
       string, it must be doubled. For example:

	 (?C'ab	''c'' d')xyz(?C{any text})pqr

       The doubling is removed before the string  is  passed  to  the  callout


       There  are  a  number  of  special "Backtracking	Control	Verbs" (to use
       Perl's terminology) that	modify the behaviour  of  backtracking	during
       matching.  They are generally of	the form (*VERB) or (*VERB:NAME). Some
       verbs take either form, and may behave differently depending on whether
       or  not	a  name	 argument is present. The names	are not	required to be
       unique within the pattern.

       By default, for compatibility with Perl,	a  name	 is  any  sequence  of
       characters that does not	include	a closing parenthesis. The name	is not
       processed in any	way, and it is	not  possible  to  include  a  closing
       parenthesis   in	 the  name.   This  can	 be  changed  by  setting  the
       PCRE2_ALT_VERBNAMES option, but the result is no	 longer	 Perl-compati-

       When  PCRE2_ALT_VERBNAMES  is  set,  backslash processing is applied to
       verb names and only an unescaped	 closing  parenthesis  terminates  the
       name.  However, the only	backslash items	that are permitted are \Q, \E,
       and sequences such as \x{100} that define character code	points.	 Char-
       acter type escapes such as \d are faulted.

       A closing parenthesis can be included in	a name either as \) or between
       \Q and \E. In addition to backslash processing, if  the	PCRE2_EXTENDED
       or PCRE2_EXTENDED_MORE option is	also set, unescaped whitespace in verb
       names is	skipped, and #-comments	are recognized,	exactly	as in the rest
       of  the	pattern.  PCRE2_EXTENDED and PCRE2_EXTENDED_MORE do not	affect
       verb names unless PCRE2_ALT_VERBNAMES is	also set.

       The maximum length of a 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 pat-
       tern. Except for	(*ACCEPT), they	may not	be quantified.

       Since these verbs are specifically related  to  backtracking,  most  of
       them  can be used only when the pattern is to be	matched	using the tra-
       ditional	matching function, because that	uses 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 the DFA matching function.

       The  behaviour  of  these  verbs	in repeated groups, assertions,	and in
       capture groups called as	subroutines (whether or	 not  recursively)  is
       documented below.

   Optimizations that affect backtracking verbs

       PCRE2 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	PCRE2_NO_START_OPTIMIZE	option when calling pcre2_com-
       pile(), or by starting the pattern with (*NO_START_OPT).	There is  more
       discussion of this option in the	section	entitled "Compiling a pattern"
       in the pcre2api documentation.

       Experiments with	Perl suggest that it too  has  similar	optimizations,
       and like	PCRE2, turning them off	can change the result of a match.

   Verbs that act immediately

       The following verbs act as soon as they are encountered.


       This  verb causes the match to end successfully,	skipping the remainder
       of the pattern. However,	when it	is inside  a  capture  group  that  is
       called as a subroutine, only that group 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:


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

       (*ACCEPT) is the	only backtracking verb that is allowed to  be  quanti-
       fied  because  an  ungreedy  quantification with	a minimum of zero acts
       only when a backtrack happens. Consider,	for example,


       where A,	B, and C may be	complex	expressions. After matching  "A",  the
       matcher	processes  "BC"; if that fails,	causing	a backtrack, (*ACCEPT)
       is triggered and	the match succeeds. In both cases, all but C  is  cap-
       tured.  Whereas	(*COMMIT) (see below) means "fail on backtrack", a re-
       peated (*ACCEPT)	of this	type means "succeed on backtrack".

       Warning:	(*ACCEPT) should not be	used within a script  run  group,  be-
       cause  it causes	an immediate exit from the group, bypassing the	script
       run checking.

	 (*FAIL) or (*FAIL:NAME)

       This verb causes	a matching failure, forcing backtracking to occur.  It
       may  be	abbreviated  to	 (*F).	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 PCRE2. The nearest equivalent	is  the	 callout  fea-
       ture, as	for example in this pattern:


       A  match	 with the string "aaaa"	always fails, but the callout is taken
       before each backtrack happens (in this example, 10 times).

       (*ACCEPT:NAME) and (*FAIL:NAME) behave the  same	 as  (*MARK:NAME)(*AC-
       CEPT)  and  (*MARK:NAME)(*FAIL),	 respectively,	that  is, a (*MARK) is
       recorded	just before the	verb acts.

   Recording which path	was taken

       There is	one verb whose main purpose is to track	how a  match  was  ar-
       rived  at,  though  it also has a secondary use in conjunction with ad-
       vancing the match starting point	(see (*SKIP) below).

	 (*MARK:NAME) or (*:NAME)

       A name is always	required with this verb. For all the other  backtrack-
       ing control verbs, a NAME argument is optional.

       When  a	match  succeeds, the name of the last-encountered mark name on
       the matching path is passed back	to the caller as described in the sec-
       tion entitled "Other information	about the match" in the	pcre2api docu-
       mentation. This applies to all instances	of (*MARK)  and	 other	verbs,
       including those inside assertions and atomic groups. However, there are
       differences in those cases when (*MARK) is  used	 in  conjunction  with
       (*SKIP) as described below.

       The  mark name that was last encountered	on the matching	path is	passed
       back. A verb without a NAME argument is ignored for this	purpose.  Here
       is  an  example of pcre2test output, where the "mark" modifier requests
       the retrieval and outputting of (*MARK) data:

	   re> /X(*MARK:A)Y|X(*MARK:B)Z/mark
	 data> XY
	  0: XY
	 MK: A
	  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

       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/mark
	 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 PCRE2_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 a subsequent	match failure,
       causing a backtrack to the verb,	a failure is forced.  That  is,	 back-
       tracking	 cannot	 pass  to  the	left of	the verb. However, when	one of
       these verbs appears inside an atomic group or in	a lookaround 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.	 Back-
       tracking	from beyond an assertion or an atomic group ignores the	entire
       group, and seeks	a preceding backtracking point.

       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.


       This  verb  causes the whole match to fail outright if there is a later
       matching	failure	that causes backtracking to reach it. Even if the pat-
       tern  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 pcre2_match() is com-
       mitted to finding a match at the	current	starting point,	or not at all.
       For example:


       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 behaviour of	(*COMMIT:NAME) is not the same	as  (*MARK:NAME)(*COM-
       MIT).  It is like (*MARK:NAME) in that the name is remembered for pass-
       ing back	to the caller. However,	(*SKIP:NAME) searches only  for	 names
       that are	set with (*MARK), ignoring those set by	any of the other back-
       tracking	verbs.

       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 an-
       chor, unless PCRE2's start-of-match optimizations are  turned  off,  as
       shown in	this output from pcre2test:

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

       For  the	first pattern, PCRE2 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. The
       second pattern 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


       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

       The behaviour of	(*PRUNE:NAME) is 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),	ignoring those set by other backtracking verbs.


       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 if there	is a  later  mismatch.


       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 at-
       tempt would start at the	second character instead  of  skipping	on  to

       If  (*SKIP) is used to specify a	new starting position that is the same
       as the starting position	of the current match, or (by  being  inside  a
       lookbehind)  earlier, the position specified by (*SKIP) is ignored, and
       instead the normal "bumpalong" occurs.


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

       The  search  for	a (*MARK) name uses the	normal backtracking mechanism,
       which means that	it does	not  see  (*MARK)  settings  that  are	inside
       atomic groups or	assertions, because they are never re-entered by back-
       tracking. Compare the following pcre2test examples:

	   re> /a(?>(*MARK:X))(*SKIP:X)(*F)|(.)/
	 data: abc
	  0: a
	  1: a
	   re> /a(?:(*MARK:X))(*SKIP:X)(*F)|(.)/
	 data: abc
	  0: b
	  1: b

       In the first example, the (*MARK) setting is in an atomic group,	so  it
       is not seen when	(*SKIP:X) triggers, causing the	(*SKIP)	to be ignored.
       This allows the second branch of	the pattern to be tried	at  the	 first
       character  position.  In	the second example, the	(*MARK)	setting	is not
       in an atomic group. This	allows (*SKIP:X) to find the (*MARK)  when  it
       backtracks, and this causes a new matching attempt to start at the sec-
       ond character. This time, the (*MARK) is	never seen  because  "a"  does
       not match "b", so the matcher immediately jumps to the second branch of
       the pattern.

       Note that (*SKIP:NAME) searches only for	names set by (*MARK:NAME).  It
       ignores names that are set by other backtracking	verbs.

	 (*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 in-
       side an alternation, it acts like (*PRUNE).

       The behaviour of	(*THEN:NAME) is	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),	ignoring those set by other backtracking verbs.

       A  group	 that does not contain a | character is	just a part of the en-
       closing alternative; it is not a	nested alternation with	only  one  al-
       ternative. The effect of	(*THEN)	extends	beyond such a group to the en-
       closing alternative.  Consider this pattern, where A, B,	etc. are  com-
       plex  pattern  fragments	 that  do not contain any | characters at this

	 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 group 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 group. After a fail-
       ure in C, matching moves	to (*FAIL), which causes the  whole  group  to
       fail  because  there  are  no  more  alternatives to try. In this case,
       matching	does backtrack into A.

       Note that a conditional group is	not considered as having two  alterna-
       tives,  because	only one is ever used. In other	words, the | character
       in a conditional	group has a different meaning. Ignoring	 white	space,

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

       If the subject is "ba", this pattern does not match. Because .*?	is un-
       greedy, 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 group	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:


       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:


       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

       PCRE2 sometimes differs from Perl in its	handling of backtracking verbs
       in repeated groups. For example,	consider:


       If the subject is "abac", Perl matches  unless  its  optimizations  are
       disabled,  but  PCRE2  always fails because the (*COMMIT) in the	second
       repeat of the group acts.

   Backtracking	verbs in assertions

       (*FAIL) in any assertion	has its	normal effect: it forces an  immediate
       backtrack.  The	behaviour  of  the other backtracking verbs depends on
       whether or not the assertion is standalone or acting as	the  condition
       in a conditional	group.

       (*ACCEPT)  in  a	 standalone positive assertion causes the assertion to
       succeed without any further processing; captured	 strings  and  a  mark
       name  (if  set) are retained. In	a standalone negative assertion, (*AC-
       CEPT) causes the	assertion to fail without any further processing; cap-
       tured substrings	and any	mark name are discarded.

       If  the	assertion is a condition, (*ACCEPT) causes the condition to be
       true for	a positive assertion and false for a  negative	one;  captured
       substrings are retained in both cases.

       The remaining verbs act only when a later failure causes	a backtrack to
       reach them. This	means that, for	the Perl-compatible assertions,	 their
       effect is confined to the assertion, because Perl lookaround assertions
       are atomic. A backtrack that occurs after such an assertion is complete
       does  not  jump	back  into  the	 assertion.  Note in particular	that a
       (*MARK) name that is set	in an assertion	is not "seen" by  an  instance
       of (*SKIP:NAME) later in	the pattern.

       PCRE2  now supports non-atomic positive assertions, as described	in the
       section entitled	"Non-atomic assertions"	above. These  assertions  must
       be  standalone  (not used as conditions). They are not Perl-compatible.
       For these assertions, a later backtrack does jump back into the	asser-
       tion,  and  therefore verbs such	as (*COMMIT) can be triggered by back-
       tracks from later in the	pattern.

       The effect of (*THEN) is	not allowed to escape beyond an	assertion.  If
       there  are no more branches to try, (*THEN) causes a positive assertion
       to be false, and	a negative assertion to	be true.

       The other backtracking verbs are	not treated specially if  they	appear
       in  a  standalone  positive assertion. In a conditional positive	asser-
       tion, backtracking (from	within the assertion) into (*COMMIT), (*SKIP),
       or  (*PRUNE) causes the condition to be false. However, for both	stand-
       alone and conditional negative assertions, backtracking into (*COMMIT),
       (*SKIP),	or (*PRUNE) causes the assertion to be true, without consider-
       ing any further alternative branches.

   Backtracking	verbs in subroutines

       These behaviours	occur whether or not the group is called recursively.

       (*ACCEPT) in a group called as a	subroutine causes the subroutine match
       to  succeed without any further processing. Matching then continues af-
       ter the subroutine call.	Perl documents this behaviour.	Perl's	treat-
       ment of the other verbs in subroutines is different in some cases.

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

       (*COMMIT), (*SKIP), and (*PRUNE)	cause the  subroutine  match  to  fail
       when  triggered	by being backtracked to	in a group called as a subrou-
       tine. There is then a backtrack at the outer level.

       (*THEN),	when triggered,	skips to the next alternative in the innermost
       enclosing  group	that has alternatives (its normal behaviour). However,
       if there	is no such group within	the subroutine's group,	the subroutine
       match fails and there is	a backtrack at the outer level.


       pcre2api(3),    pcre2callout(3),	   pcre2matching(3),   pcre2syntax(3),


       Philip Hazel
       University Computing Service
       Cambridge, England.


       Last updated: 24	February 2020
       Copyright (c) 1997-2020 University of Cambridge.

PCRE2 10.35		       24 February 2020		       PCRE2PATTERN(3)


Want to link to this manual page? Use this URL:

home | help