Description of regexp_replace.gif follows
Description of the illustration regexp_replace.gif


REGEXP_REPLACE extends the functionality of the REPLACE function by letting you search a string for a regular expression pattern. By default, the function returns source_char with every occurrence of the regular expression pattern replaced with replace_string. The string returned is in the same character set as source_char. The function returns VARCHAR2 if the first argument is not a LOB and returns CLOB if the first argument is a LOB.

This function complies with the POSIX regular expression standard and the Unicode Regular Expression Guidelines. For more information, refer to Appendix C, "Oracle Regular Expression Support".

  • source_char is a character expression that serves as the search value. It is commonly a character column and can be of any of the datatypes CHAR, VARCHAR2, NCHAR, NVARCHAR2, CLOB or NCLOB.

  • pattern is the regular expression. It is usually a text literal and can be of any of the datatypes CHAR, VARCHAR2, NCHAR, or NVARCHAR2. It can contain up to 512 bytes. If the datatype of pattern is different from the datatype of source_char, then Oracle Database converts pattern to the datatype of source_char. For a listing of the operators you can specify in pattern, refer to Appendix C, "Oracle Regular Expression Support".

  • replace_string can be of any of the datatypes CHAR, VARCHAR2, NCHAR, NVARCHAR2, CLOB, or NCLOB. If replace_string is a CLOB or NCLOB, then Oracle truncates replace_string to 32K. The replace_string can contain up to 500 backreferences to subexpressions in the form \n, where n is a number from 1 to 9. If n is the backslash character in replace_string, then you must precede it with the escape character (\\). For more information on backreference expressions, refer to the notes to "Oracle Regular Expression Support", Table C-1.

  • position is a positive integer indicating the character of source_char where Oracle should begin the search. The default is 1, meaning that Oracle begins the search at the first character of source_char.

  • occurrence is a nonnegative integer indicating the occurrence of the replace operation:

    • If you specify 0, then Oracle replaces all occurrences of the match.

    • If you specify a positive integer n, then Oracle replaces the nth occurrence.

    If occurrence is greater than 1, then the database searches for the second occurrence beginning with the first character following the first occurrence of pattern, and so forth. This behavior is different from the INSTR function, which begins its search for the second occurrence at the second character of the first occurrence.

  • match_parameter is a text literal that lets you change the default matching behavior of the function. The behavior of this parameter is the same for this function as for REGEXP_COUNT. Refer to REGEXP_COUNT for detailed information.


The following example examines phone_number, looking for the pattern Oracle reformats this pattern with (xxx) xxx-xxxx.

                 '(\1) \2-\3') "REGEXP_REPLACE"
  FROM employees

(515) 123-4444
(515) 123-4567
(515) 123-4568
(515) 123-4569
(515) 123-5555
. . .

The following example examines country_name. Oracle puts a space after each non-null character in the string.

  REGEXP_REPLACE(country_name, '(.)', '\1 ') "REGEXP_REPLACE"
  FROM countries;

A r g e n t i n a
A u s t r a l i a
B e l g i u m
B r a z i l
C a n a d a
. . .

The following example examines the string, looking for two or more spaces. Oracle replaces each occurrence of two or more spaces with a single space.

  REGEXP_REPLACE('500   Oracle     Parkway,    Redwood  Shores, CA',
                 '( ){2,}', ' ') "REGEXP_REPLACE"

500 Oracle Parkway, Redwood Shores, CA