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regexp_substr tips

Oracle Database Tips by Burleson Consulting

May 25, 2016

Question: What does the regexp_substr operator do?  Can you show an example of using regexp_substr?

Answer:  The regexp_substr operator searches for a sub-string within a string.

The REGEXP_SUBSTR function is the advanced version of the classic SUBSTR function, allowing us to search for strings based on a regular expression pattern. This function returns a portion of the source string based on the search pattern but not its position. The substring returned by this function can be either of VARCHAR2 or CLOB data type in the same character set as that of the input source string.

 

The prototype of the REGEXP_SUBSTR function is shown below,

 

REGEXP_SUBSTR(<Source_string>, <Search_pattern>[, <Start_position>[, <Match_occurrence>[, <Match_modifiers>]]])

 

·         Source_string: The string to be searched for.

 

·         Search_pattern: The regular expression pattern that is to be searched for in the source string. This can be a combination of the POSIX and the Perl-influenced metacharacters mentioned in the above section.

 

·         Start_position: This is an optional parameter. This determines the position in the source string where the search starts. By default, it is 1, which is the starting position of the source string.

 

·         Match_occurrence: This is an optional parameter. This determines the occurrence of the search pattern. By default, it is 1, which is the first appearance of the search pattern in the string.

 

·         Match_modifiers: This is an optional parameter. This parameter allows us to modify, the matching behavior of the function. The valid range of options is mentioned in the Pattern Matching Modifiers section explained above.

 

The below shown example prints out the statement word by word for its corresponding match occurrence value.

 

SELECT regexp_substr('This is an interesting chapter','[[:alpha:]]+',1,1) regexp_substr

FROM dual;

 

For the match occurrence value 1 (Fourth parameter),

 

Result:

This

 

Using the CONNECT BY LEVEL clause, all the words from the source string can be displayed for all possible the match occurrence values using the LEVEL keyword as the fourth parameter in the above query. The total number of match occurrences is found by counting the number of spaces in the input string and adding 1 to it using the REGEXP_COUNT function.

 

SELECT regexp_substr('This is an interesting chapter', '[[:alpha:]]+', 1, level) regexp_substr

FROM dual

  CONNECT BY level<=regexp_count('This is an interesting chapter',' ')+1;

 

Result:

This

is

an

interesting

chapter 

 

The below statement separates the string into multiple chunks by the separator “,” which is mentioned in the search pattern. The search pattern “[ ^ , ] +” negates the “,” character and searches for the characters other than comma followed by a non-comma character in the source string.

 

SELECT regexp_substr('Apple,Orange,Mango,Grapes','[^,]+',1,1) regexp_substr

FROM dual;

 

For the match occurrence value 1 (Fourth parameter),

 

Result:

Apple

 

With the help of the CONNECT BY LEVEL clause, all the chunks of the source string can be displayed by using the LEVEL keyword as the match occurrence. Here, the CONNECT BY LEVEL clause generates the rows equal to the number of commas +1 in the source string.

 

SELECT regexp_substr('Apple,Orange,Mango,Grapes','[^,]+',1,level) regexp_substr

FROM dual

  CONNECT BY level<=regexp_count('Apple,Orange,Mango,Grapes',',')+1;

 

Result:

Apple

Orange

Mango

Grapes

 

The below snippet takes out the website’s name from a list of web pages. Here, the first part of the search pattern checks for a series of alphabets followed by a DOT character ([[:alpha:]]+\.) which searches and finds the match from the string as “www.”. Then the rest of the search pattern ([a-zA-Z0-9._-]+) looks for a series of characters which can be an alphabet, number, DOT character, underscore and a hyphen. When a character other than listed in the previous statement is found, the search process is stopped. In this example, the domain names with their extension “domain-name.com”, “domain_name.edu”, “domain.name.org” are selected as the next character is a front slash (/).

 

WITH t AS

  (SELECT 'https://www.domain-name.com/page1.html' col FROM dual

  UNION ALL

  SELECT 'http://www.domain_name.edu/page_2.htm' FROM dual

  UNION ALL

  SELECT 'http://www.domain.name.org/page?3.htm' FROM dual

  )

SELECT regexp_substr(col,'[[:alpha:]]+\.[a-zA-Z0-9._-]+') FROM t;

 

Result:

www.domain-name.com

www.domain_name.edu

www.domain.name.org

 

In the below example, the source string has a Newline character “chr(10)” concatenated between the three names in the WITH clause. The search pattern (^[[:alpha:]]+) looks for the string starting with an alphabet until it finds another non-matching character (Non-alphabet), in this case, a Newline character.

 

This query is executed for three different match occurrences as shown below,

 

WITH t AS

  (SELECT 'Aamir'||chr(10)||'Ashok'||chr(10)||'Ashley' col FROM dual

  )

SELECT REGEXP_SUBSTR(col, '^[[:alpha:]]+',1,1)regexp_substr1,

  REGEXP_SUBSTR(col, '^[[:alpha:]]+',1,2)regexp_substr2,

  REGEXP_SUBSTR(col, '^[[:alpha:]]+',1,3)regexp_substr3

FROM t;

 

Result:

Aamir Null Null

 

However, when the match modifier is changed to multiline mode by using the literal m as the match modifier parameter, the same query considers the Newline character as a different line and assumes that these three names are in different lines and processes it.

 

When this query is executed for the same match occurrences as above,

 

WITH t AS

  (SELECT 'Aamir'||chr(10)||'Ashok'||chr(10)||'Ashley' col FROM dual

  )

SELECT REGEXP_SUBSTR(col, '^[[:alpha:]]+',1,1,'m')regexp_substr1,

  REGEXP_SUBSTR(col, '^[[:alpha:]]+',1,2,'m')regexp_substr2,

  REGEXP_SUBSTR(col, '^[[:alpha:]]+',1,3,'m')regexp_substr3

FROM t;

 

Result:

Aamir Ashok Ashley

 

Oracle 10g introduced regular expression functions in SQL with the functions REGEXP_SUBSTR, REGEXP_REPLACE, REGEXP_INSTR and REGEXP_LIKE. Oracle 11g extends the set of available expressions with REGEXP_COUNT.

SELECT
   ENAME,
   REGEXP_SUBSTR(ENAME,'DAM') SUBSTR,
   REGEXP_INSTR(ENAME, 'T') INSTR,
   REGEXP_REPLACE(ENAME,'AM','@') REPLACE,
   REGEXP_COUNT(ENAME, 'A') COUNT
FROM
   EMP
WHERE
   REGEXP_LIKE(ENAME,'S');

ENAME      SUBSTR          INSTR REPLACE         COUNT
---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------
SMITH                          4 SMITH               0
JONES                          0 JONES               0
SCOTT                          4 SCOTT               0

ADAMS      DAM                 0 AD@S                2
JAMES                          0 J@ES                1

REGEXP_SUBSTR returns the substring DAM if found, REGEXP_INSTR returns the position of the first 'T', REGEXP_REPLACE replaces the strings 'AM' with  '@' and REGEXP_COUNT counts the occurrences of 'A'. REGEXP_LIKE returns the strings that contain the pattern 'S'.

SELECT
   REGEXP_SUBSTR('Programming','[[:alpha:]]+',1,2)
FROM
   DUAL;

REGEXP
------
Oracle

'[[:alpha:]]' is a POSIX regular expression that matches any letter. The second set of consecutive word characters is returned. The '+' specifies that the number of characters to be matched is one or more. '.' matches exactly one character; '.?' matches zero or one character; '.*' match zero, one or more character; '.+' matches one or more character; '.{3}' matches exactly three characters; '.{4,6}' matches 4, 5 or 6 characters; '.{7,}' matches 7 or more characters. The third argument is the starting position. The default 1 means the pattern will be searched from the beginning of the substring. The fourth argument in 11g represents the occurrence of the substring.

SELECT
   REGEXP_SUBSTR('Programming','\w+',1,2)
FROM
   DUAL;

REGEXP
------
Oracle

Oracle 10gR2 introduced Perl-influenced regular expressions. '\w' represents any letter, number and the underscore. Unfortunately, in comparison to the old-style approach with INSTR and SUBSTR, the 10g regular expressions perform poorly.

SET TIMING ON
DECLARE
   X VARCHAR2(40);
BEGIN
   FOR I IN 1..10000000 LOOP
      X := 'Programming';
      X := SUBSTR(X,
         INSTR(X, ' ')+1,
         INSTR(X, ' ', 1,2)-INSTR(X, ' ')-1);
   END LOOP;
END;
/

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

Elapsed: 00:00:20.40

SET TIMING ON
DECLARE
   X VARCHAR2(40);
BEGIN
   FOR I IN 1..10000000 LOOP
      X := 'Programming';
      X := REGEXP_SUBSTR(X,'\w+',1,2);
   END LOOP;
END;
/

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

Elapsed: 00:02:10.82

REPLACE replaces all occurrence of a string. REGEXP_REPLACE has the same behavior by default, but when the fifth parameter, OCCURRENCE, is set to a value greater than zero, the substitution is not global.

SELECT
   REGEXP_REPLACE
   (
      'Programming',
      '([[:alpha:]]+)[[:space:]]([[:alpha:]]+)',
      '\2: \1',
      1,
      1
   )
FROM
   DUAL;

REGEXP_REPLACE('ADVANCEDORACLESQ
--------------------------------
Oracle: Advanced SQL Programming

The search pattern contains a group of one or more alphabetic characters, followed by a space, then followed by a group of one or more alphabetic characters. This pattern is present more than once in the string, but only the first occurrence is affected. The replace pattern contains a reference to the second word, followed by a column and a space, followed by the first string.

SELECT
   REGEXP_SUBSTR
   (
      'Programming',
      '(\w).*?\1',
      1,
      1,
      'i'
   )
FROM
   DUAL;

REGE
----
Adva

The search pattern contains any alphabetic character followed by a non-greedy number of characters followed by the same character as in the group. The search starts at the character one and looks for the first match of the pattern. The modifier 'i' indicates a case insensitive search. Non-greedy expressions appeared in 10gR2. The difference between a non-greedy expression like '.*?', '.+?', '.??', '.{2}?', '.{3,5}?' or '.{6,}?' and a greedy expression like '.*', '.+', '.?', '.{2}', '.{3,5}' or '.{6,}'  is that the non-greedy searches for the smallest possible string and the greedy for the largest possible string.

SELECT
   REGEXP_SUBSTR
   (
      'Oracle',
      '.{2,4}?'
   ) NON_GREEDY,
   REGEXP_SUBSTR
   (
      'Oracle',
      '.{2,4}'
   ) GREEDY
FROM
   DUAL;

NON_GREEDY GREEDY
---------- ------
Or         Orac

Both patterns select from two to four characters. In this case, it could be 'Or', 'Ora' or 'Orac'. The non-greedy pattern returns two and the greedy four:

SELECT
   ENAME,
   REGEXP_SUBSTR(ENAME,JAMES                        ES                JAMES
FORD                         RD
MILLER                  M
'^K') "^K",
   REGEXP_SUBSTR(ENAME,'T$') "T$",
   REGEXP_SUBSTR(ENAME,'^[ABC]') "^[ABC]",
   REGEXP_SUBSTR(ENAME,'^.?M') "^.?M",
   REGEXP_SUBSTR(ENAME,'(RD|ES)$') "(RD|ES)$",
   REGEXP_SUBSTR(ENAME,'(..R){2}') "(..R){2}",
  
REGEXP_SUBSTR(ENAME,'^.{4}[^A-E]') "^.{4}[^A-E]"
FROM
   EMP;

ENAME      ^K T$ ^[ABC] ^.?M (RD|ES)$ (..R){2} ^.{4}[^A-E
---------- -- -- ------ ---- -------- -------- ----------
SMITH                   SM                     SMITH
ALLEN            A                             ALLEN
WARD                         RD
JONES                        ES                JONES

MARTIN                  M                      MARTI
BLAKE            B
CLARK            C                             CLARK
SCOTT         T                                SCOTT
KING       K
TURNER                                         TURNER
ADAMS            A                             ADAMS

 

The function REGEXP_SUBSTR matches ENAME to a pattern and returns the matched string. The first pattern checks if the name starts with 'K', the second checks if it ends with 'T', the third checks if it starts with A, B or C, the fourth checks if the string start with one or zero characters followed by M (which means the first or second character is a 'M'), the fifth checks if it ends with either ES or RD, the sixth checks if the pattern ?one character + one character + the letter R? is found twice consecutively  and the last pattern checks if the fifth character (the character following 4 characters at the beginning of the string) is not in the range A-E. Note that KING is not matched because the fifth character is not a character different from A-E. To test a string less than five characters, the pattern ^.{1,4}$ could be used.

 

 


   
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Note: This Oracle documentation was created as a support and Oracle training reference for use by our DBA performance tuning consulting professionals.  Feel free to ask questions on our Oracle forum.

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