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pcre2pattern (3)


pcre2pattern - compatible regular expressions (revised API)


Please see following description for synopsis


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
       Expressions", 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 patterns that are supported 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 advan-
       tages and disadvantages of the alternative function, and how it differs
       from the normal function, 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
       together 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 the PCRE2_UTF option, or the pattern must start with  the
       special  sequence  (*UTF),  which is equivalent to setting the relevant
       option. 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
       allowed, 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.

       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
       entirely, 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 typical 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
       sequence, 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
       sequence, 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
       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 way.

       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 subpattern
         )      end subpattern
         ?      extends the meaning of (
                also 0 or 1 quantifier
                also quantifier minimizer
         *      0 or more quantifier
         +      1 or more quantifier
                also "possessive quantifier"
         {      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 (only if followed by POSIX
         ]      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 number 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 numbers 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 remove the special meaning from a  sequence  of  charac-
       ters,  you can do so by putting them between \Q and \E. This is differ-
       ent from Perl in that $ and  @  are  handled  as  literals  in  \Q...\E
       sequences  in PCRE2, whereas in Perl, $ and @ cause variable interpola-
       tion. 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 character. 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 than the binary character it represents. In
       an ASCII or Unicode environment, these escapes are as follows:

         \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)
         \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..
         \uhhhh      character with hex code hhhh (when PCRE2_ALT_BSUX is set)

       The \N{U+hhh..} escape sequence is recognized only when  the  PCRE2_UTF
       option is set, that is, when PCRE2 is operating in a Unicode 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  different  meaning,  matching
       any character that is not a newline.

       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?
       becomes 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
       sequence \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 capturing
       left parentheses in the expression, the entire sequence is taken  as  a
       backreference.  A description of how this works is given later, follow-
       ing the discussion of  parenthesized  subpatterns.   Otherwise,  up  to
       three octal digits 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 capturing subpatterns
         \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.

       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.

       If  the  PCRE2_ALT_BSUX  option  is set, the interpretation of \x is as
       just described only when it is followed by two hexadecimal digits. Oth-
       erwise,  it  matches a literal "x" character. In this mode, support for
       code points greater than 256 is provided by \u, which must be  followed
       by  four hexadecimal digits; otherwise it matches a literal "u" charac-

       Characters whose value is less than 256 can be defined by either of the
       two syntaxes for \x (or by \u in PCRE2_ALT_BSUX mode). There is no dif-
       ference in the way they are handled. For example, \xdc is  exactly  the
       same as \x{dc} (or \u00dc in PCRE2_ALT_BSUX mode).

   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. However, if the
       PCRE2_ALT_BSUX option 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
       enclosed  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 subpatterns.

   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 subpattern 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"
       locale. 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
       below.  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
       example, 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
       sequence, 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.  In 8-bit non-UTF-8 mode, these sequences are of course
       limited to testing characters whose code points are less than 256,  but
       they do work in this mode.  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 Common script and with an unassigned type. The
       extra escape sequences are:

         \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 limited to  the  Unicode
       script names, the general category properties, "Any", which matches any
       character  (including  newline),  and  some  special  PCRE2  properties
       (described  in the next section).  Other Perl properties such as "InMu-
       sicalSymbols" are not supported by PCRE2.  Note that \P{Any}  does  not
       match any characters, so always causes a match failure.

       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:


       Those  that are not part of an identified script are lumped together as
       "Common". 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,  Common,  Coptic,  Cuneiform, Cypriot,
       Cyrillic, Deseret, Devanagari, Dogra,  Duployan,  Egyptian_Hieroglyphs,
       Elbasan,   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,  Kan-
       nada,  Katakana,  Kayah_Li,  Kharoshthi, Khmer, Khojki, Khudawadi, Lao,
       Latin, Lepcha, Limbu, Linear_A, Linear_B, Lisu, Lycian,  Lydian,  Maha-
       jani,  Makasar, Malayalam, Mandaic, Manichaean, Marchen, Masaram_Gondi,
       Medefaidrin,     Meetei_Mayek,     Mende_Kikakui,     Meroitic_Cursive,
       Meroitic_Hieroglyphs,  Miao,  Modi,  Mongolian,  Mro, Multani, Myanmar,
       Nabataean, New_Tai_Lue, Newa, Nko, Nushu, 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,
       Pahawh_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, Vai, Warang_Citi, Yi, Zanabazar_Square.

       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 in the range
       U+D800 to U+DFFF. Such characters are not valid in Unicode strings  and
       so  cannot  be  tested  by PCRE2, unless UTF validity checking has been
       turned off (see the discussion of PCRE2_NO_UTF_CHECK  in  the  pcre2api
       page). Perl does not support the Cs property.

       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
       always 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
       between 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
       sequences 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
       exclude  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
       returned. 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
       defined". In PCRE2, \K is acted upon when  it  occurs  inside  positive
       assertions,  but  is  ignored  in negative assertions. Note that when a
       pattern 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 asser-
       tion at the start of a pattern can also lead to odd effects. For  exam-
       ple, 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 subpatterns 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. In a
       UTF mode, the meanings of \w and \W  can  be  changed  by  setting  the
       PCRE2_UCP option. When this is done, it also affects \b and \B. Neither
       PCRE2 nor Perl has a separate "start of word" or "end of word"  metase-
       quence.  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

       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
       before a newline  at  the  end  of  the  string  (by  default),  unless
       PCRE2_NOTEOL is set. Note, however, that it does not actually match the
       newline. Dollar need not be the last character of the pattern if a num-
       ber 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
       results, because PCRE2 assumes that it is matching character by charac-
       ter in a valid UTF string (by default it checks  the  subject  string's
       validity  at  the  start  of  processing  unless the PCRE2_NO_UTF_CHECK
       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
       explicitly 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 Subpattern Num-
       bers" 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,
       respectively. The character's individual bytes are then captured by the
       appropriate 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
       sequence  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
       affects  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 inside a character class. Like any  other  unrecognized  escape
       sequences,  they  cause an error. The same is true for \N when not fol-
       lowed 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
       between 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  charac-
       ter, 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
       numerically, 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-
       alphanumeric 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
       sequences, 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
       assertions  that  are used above in order to give exactly the POSIX be-


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


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

         i  for PCRE2_CASELESS
         m  for PCRE2_MULTILINE
         n  for PCRE2_NO_AUTO_CAPTURE
         s  for PCRE2_DOTALL
         x  for PCRE2_EXTENDED
         xx for PCRE2_EXTENDED_MORE

       For example, (?im) sets caseless, multiline matching. It is also possi-
       ble to unset these options by preceding the  relevant  letters  with  a
       hyphen, 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-
       instated, 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
       inside  subpattern parentheses), the change applies to the remainder of
       the pattern that follows. An option change  within  a  subpattern  (see
       below  for  a description of subpatterns) affects only that part of the
       subpattern 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 subpattern.
       For example,


       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 subpattern (see the next section), the  option
       letters may appear between the "?" and the ":". Thus the two patterns


       match exactly the same set of strings.

       Note:  There  are  other  PCRE2-specific options that can be set by the
       application when the compiling function is called. The pattern can con-
       tain  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, respectively. 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.


       Subpatterns are delimited by parentheses (round brackets), which can be
       nested.  Turning part of a pattern into a subpattern 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 sets up the subpattern as  a  capturing  subpattern.  This  means
       that, when the whole pattern matches, the portion of the subject string
       that matched the subpattern 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 the  capturing  subpatterns.  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 a grouping subpattern is required
       without a capturing requirement. If an opening parenthesis is  followed
       by  a question mark and a colon, the subpattern does not do any captur-
       ing, and is not counted when computing the  number  of  any  subsequent
       capturing  subpatterns. 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 capturing subpatterns is 65535.

       As  a  convenient shorthand, if any option settings are required at the
       start of a non-capturing subpattern,  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  subpattern is reached, an option setting in one branch does affect
       subsequent branches, so the above patterns match "SUNDAY"  as  well  as


       Perl 5.10 introduced a feature whereby each alternative in a subpattern
       uses the same numbers for its capturing parentheses. Such a  subpattern
       starts  with (?| and is itself a non-capturing subpattern. 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
       subpattern  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  numbered subpattern uses the most recent value
       that is set for that number by any subpattern.  The  following  pattern
       matches "abcabc" or "defdef":


       In  contrast,  a subroutine call to a numbered subpattern 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 subpattern's having matched refers to a  non-
       unique  number, the test is true if any of the subpatterns of that num-
       ber have matched.

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


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

       In  PCRE2,  a  capturing  subpattern can be named in one of three ways:
       (?<name>...) or (?'name'...) as in Perl, or (?P<name>...) as in Python.
       Names  consist of up to 32 alphanumeric characters and underscores, but
       must start with a non-digit. References to capturing  parentheses  from
       other parts of the pattern, such as backreferences, recursion, and con-
       ditions, can all be made by name as well as by number.

       Named capturing parentheses are allocated numbers  as  well  as  names,
       exactly  as if the names were not present. In both PCRE2 and Perl, cap-
       turing subpatterns 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 cap-
       tured substrings by name.

       Warning: When  more  than  one  subpattern  has  the  same  number,  as
       described  in the previous section, a name given to one of them applies
       to all of them.  Perl allows identically numbered subpatterns  to  have
       different  names.  Consider this pattern, where there are two capturing
       subpatterns, 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  subpattern number 1 is not explicitly named, the
       name AA is still an alias for subpattern 1. Whether the pattern matches
       "aa"  or  "bb",  a  reference  by  name  to group AA yields the matched

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


       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.
       Duplicate names can be useful for patterns where only one  instance  of
       the  named parentheses 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 capturing substrings, 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)
       subpattern  of  that  name  that  matched. This saves searching to find
       which numbered subpattern it was. (An alternative way of  solving  this
       problem is to use a "branch reset" subpattern, as described in the pre-
       vious section.)

       If you make a backreference to a non-unique named subpattern from else-
       where  in  the  pattern,  the  subpatterns 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 pat-
       tern matches both "foofoo" and "barbar" but not "foobar" or "barfoo":


       If you make a subroutine call to a non-unique named subpattern, 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 subpattern has matched, or
       to check for recursion, all subpatterns 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
       details  of  the  interfaces  for  handling  named subpatterns, 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 \X escape sequence
         the \R escape sequence
         an escape such as \d or \pL that matches a single character
         a character class
         a backreference
         a parenthesized subpattern (including most assertions)
         a subroutine call to a subpattern (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 subpatterns that are referenced as subroutines  from  elsewhere
       in the pattern (but see also the section entitled "Defining subpatterns
       for use by reference only" below). Items other  than  subpatterns  that
       have a {0} quantifier are omitted from the compiled pattern.

       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  subpattern
       that can match no characters with a quantifier that has no upper limit,
       for example:


       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 if any repetition of the
       subpattern  does in fact match no characters, the loop is forcibly bro-

       By default, the 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
       appear between /* and */ and within the comment,  individual  *  and  /
       characters  may  appear. An attempt to match C comments by applying the


       to the string

         /* first comment */  not comment  /* second comment */

       fails, because it matches the entire string owing to the greediness  of
       the .*  item.

       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  pat-


       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  subpattern  is quantified with a minimum repeat
       count that is greater than 1 or with a limited maximum, more memory  is
       required  for  the  compiled  pattern, in proportion to the size of the
       minimum 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
       after 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 capturing subpattern is repeated, the value captured is the sub-
       string 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  capturing  subpatterns,
       the  corresponding captured values may have been set in previous itera-
       tions. 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 subpattern 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:


       This kind of parenthesis "locks up" the  part of the  pattern  it  con-
       tains  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 subpattern 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 grouping subpatterns are not capturing subpatterns. Simple cases
       such as the above example can be thought of as a maximizing repeat that
       must  swallow  everything  it can. So, while both \d+ and \d+? are pre-
       pared to adjust the number of digits they match in order  to  make  the
       rest of the pattern match, (?>\d+) can only match an entire sequence of

       Atomic groups in general can of course contain arbitrarily  complicated
       subpatterns,  and  can  be  nested. However, when the subpattern for an
       atomic group is just a single repeated item, as in the example above, a
       simpler  notation,  called  a "possessive quantifier" can be used. This
       consists 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_UNGREEDY  option  is  ignored. They are a convenient notation for
       the simpler 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 ultimately
       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 subpattern that
       can itself 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
       example  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 charac-
       ter 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 capturing sub-
       pattern earlier (that is, to its left) in the pattern,  provided  there
       have been that many previous capturing left parentheses.

       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 capturing left parentheses in the entire pat-
       tern. In other words, the parentheses that are referenced need  not  be
       to  the left of the reference for numbers less than 8. A "forward back-
       reference" of this type can make sense when a  repetition  is  involved
       and  the  subpattern to the right has participated in an earlier itera-

       It is not possible to have a numerical  "forward  backreference"  to  a
       subpattern  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.  There  is  no
       such  problem  when  named parentheses are used. A backreference to any
       subpattern is possible using named parentheses (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 captur-
       ing subpattern before \g, that is, is it equivalent to \2 in this exam-
       ple.  Similarly, \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 themselves.

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

       A backreference matches whatever actually matched the capturing subpat-
       tern in the current subject string, rather than anything  matching  the
       subpattern  itself (see "Subpatterns 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 capturing subpattern is matched caselessly.

       There are several different ways of  writing  backreferences  to  named
       subpatterns.  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  subpattern  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 subpattern.  If  a
       subpattern  has not actually been used in a particular match, any back-
       references 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 capturing parentheses in a pattern, all  dig-
       its  following  a backslash are taken as part of a potential backrefer-
       ence number.  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 parentheses to which  it  refers
       fails  when  the subpattern is first used, so, for example, (a\1) never
       matches.  However, such references can be useful inside  repeated  sub-
       patterns. For example, the pattern


       matches any number of "a"s and also "aba", "ababbaa" etc. At each iter-
       ation of the subpattern, the backreference matches the character string
       corresponding 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.

       Backreferences of this type cause the group that they reference  to  be
       treated  as  an atomic group.  Once the whole group has been matched, a
       subsequent matching failure cannot cause backtracking into  the  middle
       of the group.


       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  subpatterns.  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  assertion
       may  be  positive  (must  succeed for matching to continue) or negative
       (must not succeed for matching to continue). An assertion subpattern is
       matched in the normal way, except that, when matching continues after a
       successful assertion, the matching position in the subject string is as
       it was before the assertion was processed.

       Assertion  subpatterns  are  not capturing subpatterns. If an assertion
       contains capturing subpatterns within it, these  are  counted  for  the
       purposes  of  numbering the capturing subpatterns in the whole pattern.
       Within each branch of an assertion, 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  succeeds  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 has failed. If the assertion  is  being
       used  as  a condition in a conditional subpattern (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.

       For   compatibility  with  Perl,  most  assertion  subpatterns  may  be
       repeated; though it makes no sense to assert  the  same  thing  several
       times,  the  side  effect  of capturing parentheses may occasionally be
       useful. However, an assertion that forms the  condition  for  a  condi-
       tional  subpattern may not be quantified. In practice, for other asser-
       tions, there only three cases:

       (1) If the quantifier is {0}, the  assertion  is  never  obeyed  during
       matching.   However,  it  may  contain internal capturing parenthesized
       groups that are called from elsewhere via the subroutine mechanism.

       (2) If quantifier is {0,n} where n is greater than zero, it is  treated
       as  if  it  were  {0,1}.  At run time, the rest of the pattern match is
       tried with and without the assertion, the order depending on the greed-
       iness of the quantifier.

       (3)  If  the minimum repetition is greater than zero, the quantifier is
       ignored.  The assertion is obeyed just  once  when  encountered  during

   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
       always  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 subpattern 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_UNSET_BACKREF option must not be set, there must be no  use
       of (?| in the pattern (it creates duplicate subpattern numbers), and if
       the backreference is by name, the name must be unique. Of  course,  the
       referenced  subpattern  must  itself  be of fixed length. 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
       assertions 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".


       It  is possible to cause the matching process to obey a subpattern con-
       ditionally or to choose between two alternative subpatterns,  depending
       on  the result of an assertion, or whether a specific capturing subpat-
       tern has already been matched. The two possible  forms  of  conditional
       subpattern 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 subpattern, a compile-time error occurs. Each of the two
       alternatives may itself contain nested subpatterns of any form, includ-
       ing  conditional  subpatterns;  the  restriction  to  two  alternatives
       applies only at the level of the condition. 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  subpatterns,  refer-
       ences  to  recursion,  two pseudo-conditions called DEFINE and VERSION,
       and assertions.

   Checking for a used subpattern by number

       If the text between the parentheses consists of a sequence  of  digits,
       the condition is true if a capturing subpattern of that number has pre-
       viously matched. If there is more than one  capturing  subpattern  with
       the  same  number  (see  the earlier section about duplicate subpattern
       numbers), the condition is true if any of them have matched. An  alter-
       native  notation is to precede the digits with a plus or minus sign. In
       this case, the subpattern number is relative rather than absolute.  The
       most  recently opened parentheses 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 parentheses to be opened can be
       referenced as (?(+1), and so on. (The value zero in any of these  forms
       is not used; it provokes a compile-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 subpattern that tests whether  or  not  the
       first  set  of  parentheses  matched.  If they 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. Other-
       wise, since no-pattern is not present, the subpattern 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 subpattern by name

       Perl uses the syntax (?(<name>)...) or (?('name')...)  to  test  for  a
       used  subpattern  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-

       Rewriting the above example to use a named subpattern gives this:

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

       If  the  name used in a condition of this kind is a duplicate, the test
       is applied to all subpatterns 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 "Subpatterns
       as subroutines" below for details of recursion and subpattern calls.

       If a condition is the string (R), and there is no subpattern  with  the
       name  R,  the condition is true if matching is currently in a recursion
       or subroutine call to the whole pattern or any  subpattern.  If  digits
       follow  the  letter  R,  and there is no subpattern with that name, the
       condition is true if the most recent call is into a subpattern 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 subpattern with a matching  name,
       the  condition  tests  for  its  being set, as described in the section
       above, instead of testing for recursion. For example, creating a  group
       with  the  name  R1  by  adding (?<R1>) to the above pattern completely
       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 subpattern
       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 subpatterns 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 subpatterns 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 subpattern. It is always skipped if con-
       trol  reaches  this point in the pattern; the idea of DEFINE is that it
       can be used to define subroutines that can  be  referenced  from  else-
       where. (The use of subroutines is described below.) For example, a pat-
       tern 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 an
       assertion.  This may be a positive or negative lookahead or  lookbehind
       assertion.  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
       optional  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
       letter  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  capturing  subpatterns,
       any  capturing that occurs in a matching branch is retained afterwards,
       for both positive and negative assertions, because matching always con-
       tinues after the assertion, whether it succeeds or fails. (Compare non-
       conditional assertions, when captures are retained  only  for  positive
       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 subpattern 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.
       Instead, it supports special syntax for recursion of  the  entire  pat-
       tern, and also for individual subpattern recursion. After its introduc-
       tion 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
       subpattern  of  the  given  number, provided that it occurs inside that
       subpattern. (If not, it is a non-recursive subroutine  call,  which  is
       described  in  the  next  section.)  The special item (?R) or (?0) is a
       recursive 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
       recursive  match  of the pattern itself (that is, a correctly parenthe-
       sized 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 subpattern numbers are in use, rel-
       ative references refer to the earliest subpattern with the  appropriate
       number. Consider, for example:

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

       The  first  two  capturing  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, relative references are just a shorthand for computing  a  group

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

       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 subpattern with the same name, the earliest
       one is used.

       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 capturing  sub-
       pattern  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 process.

       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 subpattern, 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 subpattern 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
       recursive  pattern.  For  example,  this  pattern  matches  palindromic


       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  subpattern  was called recursively or as a subpattern (see the
       next section), it had no access to any values that were  captured  out-
       side  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 subpattern 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 subpattern as an independent subpattern which it
       tries to match at the current matching position. The called  subpattern
       may  be defined before or after the reference. A numbered reference can
       be absolute 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  subpat-
       tern  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 subpattern.

       The  behaviour of backtracking control verbs in subpatterns 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  referencing a subpattern as a subroutine,
       possibly recursively. Here are two of the examples used above,  rewrit-
       ten 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,  possibly  behaving  differently  depending  on
       whether or not a name is present.

       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-

       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
       subpatterns called as subroutines (whether or not recursively) is docu-
       mented 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.

          (*ACCEPT) or (*ACCEPT:NAME)

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

         (*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   exactly   the   same  as
       (*MARK:NAME)(*ACCEPT) and (*MARK:NAME)(*FAIL), respectively.

   Recording which path was taken

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

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

       A name is always  required  with  this  verb.  There  may  be  as  many
       instances  of  (*MARK) as you like in a pattern, and their names do not
       have to be unique.

       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), including those
       inside assertions and atomic groups. (There are  differences  in  those
       cases  when  (*MARK)  is  used in conjunction with (*SKIP) as described

       As well as (*MARK), the (*COMMIT), (*PRUNE) and (*THEN) verbs may  have
       associated  NAME  arguments.  Whichever is last on the matching path is
       passed back. See below for more details of these other verbs.

       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 preceeding 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.

         (*COMMIT) or (*COMMIT:NAME)

       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
       set with  (*MARK),  ignoring  those  set  by  (*COMMIT),  (*PRUNE)  and

       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
       anchor,  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

         (*PRUNE) or (*PRUNE:NAME)

       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 (*COMMIT), (*PRUNE) or (*THEN).


       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
       attempt  would  start at the second character instead of skipping on to


       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  (*COMMIT:NAME),  (*PRUNE:NAME)  or

         (*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
       inside 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 (*COMMIT), (*PRUNE) and (*THEN).

       A subpattern that does not contain a | character is just a part of  the
       enclosing  alternative;  it  is  not a nested alternation with only one
       alternative. The effect of (*THEN) extends beyond such a subpattern  to
       the  enclosing alternative. Consider this pattern, where A, B, etc. are
       complex 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 subpattern 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 subpattern. After  a
       failure in C, matching moves to (*FAIL), which causes the whole subpat-
       tern to fail because there are no more alternatives  to  try.  In  this
       case, matching does now backtrack into A.

       Note  that  a  conditional  subpattern  is not considered as having two
       alternatives, because only one is ever used.  In  other  words,  the  |
       character in a conditional subpattern has a different meaning. Ignoring
       white space, consider:

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

       If the subject is "ba", this pattern does not  match.  Because  .*?  is
       ungreedy,  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  subpattern  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 subpattern.

       (*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,
       (*ACCEPT)  causes the assertion to fail without any further processing;
       captured 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 their effect is confined to the assertion,
       because lookaround assertions are atomic. A backtrack that occurs after
       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) latter 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 subpattern is called recur-

       (*ACCEPT) in a subpattern called as a subroutine causes the  subroutine
       match  to succeed without any further processing. Matching then contin-
       ues after the subroutine call. Perl documents  this  behaviour.  Perl's
       treatment of the other verbs in subroutines is different in some cases.

       (*FAIL)  in  a subpattern 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 subpattern called as a sub-
       routine. There is then a backtrack at the outer level.

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

       See attributes(7) for descriptions of the following attributes:

       |Availability   | library/pcre2    |
       |Stability      | Uncommitted      |

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


       Philip Hazel
       University Computing Service
       Cambridge, England.


       Last updated: 04 September 2018
       Copyright (c) 1997-2018 University of Cambridge.

       This     software     was    built    from    source    available    at
       https://github.com/oracle/solaris-userland.   The  original   community
       source  was  downloaded from  ftp://ftp.csx.cam.ac.uk/pub/software/pro-

       Further information about this software can be found on the open source
       community website at http://pcre.org/.

PCRE2 10.32                    04 September 2018               PCRE2PATTERN(3)