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  • normal characters match themselves
  • . matches anything (except newlines)
  • brackets create groups:
    • [abcd] matches ‘a’ or ‘b’ or ‘c’ or ‘d.
    • can also be written [a-d].
  • Some are really common, so they have shortcuts:
    • [a-zA-Z0-9_] matches alphanumerics and _ (the chars allowed in python variables). it can be written \w.
    • [0-9] can be written \d
  1. Write a regex that matches any year in the 2000s. It should match 2000, 2001, 2182, but not 1999 or 123 or 18222. Test with echo '2000 2001 2182 1999 123 18222' | tr ' ' '\n' | grep '(your regex here)'

Aside: shell commands and pipes are incredibly useful. This one says:

echo '2000 2001 2182 1999 123 18222' | # Prepare input for the next command
tr ' ' '\n' | # translate spaces into newlines
grep '(regex)' # filter the lines, requiring that they match the regex

There's a great story about shell scripts at

  1. Write a regex to match any iso8601-formatted dates that occur during November of any year. (Those look like ‘2012-08-13’, ‘2016-09-08’, ‘YYYY-MM-DD’.) Test with echo '2014-01-12 2016-11-01 2010-03-11 2011-12-11 2003-11-18' | tr ' ' '\n' | grep '(your regex here)'

The special characters ^ and $ represent the start and end of a line.

  1. Write a regex that matches ‘pear’ or ‘peer’, but no other words. Test with echo pear peer pare spaghetti pearls peerless | tr ' ' '\n' | grep '(your regex here)'

  2. Write a regex to match any line, as long as it ends with a period. It shouldn't count lines that merely include a period. Test with curl | grep '(your regex here)'

Crossword puzzle helper! Use for your words list, or /usr/share/dict/words if you're on mac or linux.

  1. ad_r_ to decorate
  2. _l_c__ calm, unexcitable
  3. n__ir Towards earth, for the ISS

To repeat a pattern, you can use curly braces with the number of times you want it:

  • abc{3} will match 'abccc', but not 'abc' or 'abcc'
  • \w{4,} will match four or more letters in \w.
  • co{2,}l will match 'cool', 'coooool', or 'cooooooooooooooool', but not 'col'

Note: I found that I needed to use greps -E flag in order for the repeat-pattern regexes to work. This looks like < words grep -E 'abc{3}

  1. Find a word with three dotted letters in a row. Credit to The Simpsons for the inspiration for this problem.
  2. Make a list of words composed only of vowels (consider 'y' to be a vowel for this problem).

To negate a set, use ^. so [^a-d] will match anything but a,b,c,d.

  1. Find a word with five consonants in a row.

Further reading:


A Regex Tutorial, created for LC101






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