The Java™ Tutorials
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Methods of the PatternSyntaxException Class
Trail: Essential Java Classes
Lesson: Regular Expressions

Methods of the PatternSyntaxException Class

A PatternSyntaxException is an unchecked exception that indicates a syntax error in a regular expression pattern. The PatternSyntaxException class provides the following methods to help you determine what went wrong:

The following source code,, updates our test harness to check for malformed regular expressions:

import java.util.regex.Pattern;
import java.util.regex.Matcher;
import java.util.regex.PatternSyntaxException;

public class RegexTestHarness2 {

    public static void main(String[] args){
        Pattern pattern = null;
        Matcher matcher = null;

        Console console = System.console();
        if (console == null) {
            System.err.println("No console.");
        while (true) {
                pattern = 
                Pattern.compile(console.readLine("%nEnter your regex: "));

                matcher = 
                pattern.matcher(console.readLine("Enter input string to search: "));
            catch(PatternSyntaxException pse){
                console.format("There is a problem" +
                               " with the regular expression!%n");
                console.format("The pattern in question is: %s%n",
                console.format("The description is: %s%n",
                console.format("The message is: %s%n",
                console.format("The index is: %s%n",
            boolean found = false;
            while (matcher.find()) {
                console.format("I found the text" +
                    " \"%s\" starting at " +
                    "index %d and ending at index %d.%n",
                found = true;
                console.format("No match found.%n");

To run this test, enter ?i)foo as the regular expression. This mistake is a common scenario in which the programmer has forgotten the opening parenthesis in the embedded flag expression (?i). Doing so will produce the following results:

Enter your regex: ?i)
There is a problem with the regular expression!
The pattern in question is: ?i)
The description is: Dangling meta character '?'
The message is: Dangling meta character '?' near index 0
The index is: 0

From this output, we can see that the syntax error is a dangling metacharacter (the question mark) at index 0. A missing opening parenthesis is the culprit.

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