Useful Regex Showcase

Match a date

You should remember that regex was designed for matching a date (or not). Saying that a date is valid is a much more complicated struggle, since it will require a lot of exception handling (see leap year conditions).

Let's start by matching the month (1 - 12) with an optional leading 0:

0?[1-9]|1[0-2]

To match the day, also with an optional leading 0:

0?[1-9]|[12][0-9]|3[01]

And to match the year (let's just assume the range 1900 - 2999):

(?:19|20)[0-9]{2}

The separator can be a space, a dash, a slash, empty, etc. Feel free to add anything you feel may be used as a separator:

[-\\/ ]?

Now you concatenate the whole thing and get:

(0?[1-9]|1[0-2])[-\\/ ]?(0?[1-9]|[12][0-9]|3[01])[-/ ]?(?:19|20)[0-9]{2} // MMDDYYYY
(0?[1-9]|[12][0-9]|3[01])[-\\/ ]?(0?[1-9]|1[0-2])[-/ ]?(?:19|20)[0-9]{2} // DDMMYYYY
(?:19|20)[0-9]{2}[-\\/ ]?(0?[1-9]|1[0-2])[-/ ]?(0?[1-9]|[12][0-9]|3[01]) // YYYYMMDD

If you want to be a bit more pedantic, you can use a back reference to be sure that the two separators will be the same:

(0?[1-9]|1[0-2])([-\\/ ]?)(0?[1-9]|[12][0-9]|3[01])\2(?:19|20)[0-9]{2} // MMDDYYYY
                                                 ^ refer to [-/ ]
(0?[1-9]|[12][0-9]|3[01])([-\\/ ]?)(0?[1-9]|1[0-2])\2(?:19|20)[0-9]{2} // DDMMYYYY
(?:19|20)[0-9]{2}([-\\/ ]?)(0?[1-9]|1[0-2])\2(0?[1-9]|[12][0-9]|3[01]) // YYYYMMDD

Match a phone number

Here's how to match a prefix code (a + or (00), then a number from 1 to 1939, with an optional space):
This doesn't look for a valid prefix but something that might be a prefix. See the full list of prefixes

(?:00|\+)?[0-9]{4}

Then, as the entire phone number length is, at most, 15, we can look for up to 14 digits:
At least 1 digit is spent for the prefix

[0-9]{1,14}

The numbers may contains spaces, dots, or dashes and may be grouped by 2 or 3.

(?:[ .-][0-9]{3}){1,5}

With the optional prefix:

(?:(?:00|\+)?[0-9]{4})?(?:[ .-][0-9]{3}){1,5}

If you want to match a specific country format, you can use this search query and add the country, the question has certainly already been asked.

Match an email address

Matching an email address within a string is a hard task, because the specification defining it, the RFC2822, is complex making it hard to implement as a regex. For more details why it is not a good idea to match an email with a regex, please refer to the antipattern example when not to use a regex: for matching emails. The best advice to note from that page is to use a peer reviewed and widely library in your favorite language to implement this.

Validate an email address format

When you need to rapidly validate an entry to make sure it looks like an email, the best option is to keep it simple:

^\S{1,}@\S{2,}\.\S{2,}$

That regex will check that the mail address is a non-space separated sequence of characters of length greater than one, followed by an @, followed by two sequences of non-spaces characters of length two or more separated by a .. It's not perfect, and might validate invalid addresses (according to the format), but most importantly, it's not invalidating valid addresses.

Check the address exists

The only reliable way to check that an email is valid is to check for its existence. There used to be the VRFY SMTP command that has been designed for that purpose, but sadly, after being abused by spammers it's now not available anymore.

So the only way you're left with to check that the mail is valid and exists is to actually send an e-mail to that address.

Huge Regex alternatives

Though, it's not impossible to validate an address email using a regex. The only issues is that the closer to the specification those regexes will be, the bigger they will be and as a consequency they are impossibly hard to read and maintain. Below, you'll find example of such more accurate regex that are being used in some libraries.

⚠️ The following regex are given for documentation and learning purposes, copy pasting them in your code is a bad idea. Instead, use that library directly, so you can rely on upstream code and peer developers to keep your email parsing code up to date and maintained.

Perl Address matching module

The best examples of such regex are in some languages standard libraries. For example, there's one from the RFC::RFC822::Address module in the Perl library that tries to be as accurate as possible according to the RFC. For your curiosity you can find a version of that regex at this URL, that has been generated from the grammar, and if you're tempted to copy paste it, here's quote from the regex' author:

"I do not maintain the regular expression [linked]. There may be bugs in it that have already been fixed in the Perl module."

.Net Address matching module

Another, shorter variant is the one used by the .Net standard library in the EmailAddressAttribute module:

^((([a-z]|\d|[!#\$%&'\*\+\-\/=\?\^_`{\|}~]|[\u00A0-\uD7FF\uF900-\uFDCF\uFDF0-\uFFEF])+(\.([a-z]|\d|[!#\$%&'\*\+\-\/=\?\^_`{\|}~]|[\u00A0-\uD7FF\uF900-\uFDCF\uFDF0-\uFFEF])+)*)|((\x22)((((\x20|\x09)*(\x0d\x0a))?(\x20|\x09)+)?(([\x01-\x08\x0b\x0c\x0e-\x1f\x7f]|\x21|[\x23-\x5b]|[\x5d-\x7e]|[\u00A0-\uD7FF\uF900-\uFDCF\uFDF0-\uFFEF])|(\\([\x01-\x09\x0b\x0c\x0d-\x7f]|[\u00A0-\uD7FF\uF900-\uFDCF\uFDF0-\uFFEF]))))*(((\x20|\x09)*(\x0d\x0a))?(\x20|\x09)+)?(\x22)))@((([a-z]|\d|[\u00A0-\uD7FF\uF900-\uFDCF\uFDF0-\uFFEF])|(([a-z]|\d|[\u00A0-\uD7FF\uF900-\uFDCF\uFDF0-\uFFEF])([a-z]|\d|-|\.|_|~|[\u00A0-\uD7FF\uF900-\uFDCF\uFDF0-\uFFEF])*([a-z]|\d|[\u00A0-\uD7FF\uF900-\uFDCF\uFDF0-\uFFEF])))\.)+(([a-z]|[\u00A0-\uD7FF\uF900-\uFDCF\uFDF0-\uFFEF])|(([a-z]|[\u00A0-\uD7FF\uF900-\uFDCF\uFDF0-\uFFEF])([a-z]|\d|-|\.|_|~|[\u00A0-\uD7FF\uF900-\uFDCF\uFDF0-\uFFEF])*([a-z]|[\u00A0-\uD7FF\uF900-\uFDCF\uFDF0-\uFFEF])))\.?$

But even if it's shorter it's still too big to be readable and easily maintainable.

Ruby Address matching module

In ruby a composition of regex are being used in the rfc822 module to match an address. This is a neat idea, as in case bugs are found, it will be easier to pinpoint the regex part to change and fix it.

Python Address matching module

As a counter example, the python email parsing module is not using a regex, but instead implements it using a parser.

Match an IP Address

IPv4

To match IPv4 address format, you need to check for numbers [0-9]{1,3} three times {3} separated by periods \. and ending with another number.

^(?:[0-9]{1,3}\.){3}[0-9]{1,3}$

This regular expression is too simple - if you want to it to be accurate, you need to check that the numbers are between 0 and 255, with the regex above accepting 444 in any position. You want to check for 250-255 with 25[0-5], or any other 200 value 2[0-4][0-9], or any 100 value or less with [01]?[0-9][0-9]. You want to check that it is followed by a period \. three times {3} and then once without a period.

^(?:(?:25[0-5]|2[0-4][0-9]|[01]?[0-9][0-9]?)\.){3}(?:25[0-5]|2[0-4][0-9]|[01]?[0-9][0-9]?)$

IPv6

IPv6 addresses take the form of 8 16-bit hex words delimited with the colon (:) character. In this case, we check for 7 words followed by colons, followed by one that is not. If a word has leading zeroes, they may be truncated, meaning each word may contain between 1 and 4 hex digits.

^(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){7}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$

This, however, is insufficient. As IPv6 addresses can become quite "wordy", the standard specifies that zero-only words may be replaced by ::. This may only be done once in an address (for anywhere between 1 and 7 consecutive words), as it would otherwise be indeterminate. This produces a number of (rather nasty) variations:

^::(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,6}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$
^[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,5}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$
^[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,4}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$
^(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,2}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,3}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$
^(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,3}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,2}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$
^(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,4}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:)?[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$
^(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,5}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$
^(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,6}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::$

Now, putting it all together (using alternation) yields:

^(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){7}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$|
^::(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,6}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$|
^[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,5}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$|
^[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,4}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$|
^(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,2}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,3}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$|
^(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,3}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,2}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$|
^(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,4}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:)?[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$|
^(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,5}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}$|
^(?:[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}:){0,6}[0-9a-fA-F]{1,4}::$

Be sure to write it out in multiline mode and with a pile of comments so whoever is inevitably tasked with figuring out what this means doesn't come after you with a blunt object.

Match UK postcode

Regex to match postcodes in UK

The format is as follows, where A signifies a letter and 9 a digit:

FormatCoverageExample
CellCell
AA9A 9AAWC postcode area; EC1–EC4, NW1W, SE1P, SW1EC1A 1BB
A9A 9AAE1W, N1C, N1PW1A 0AX
A9 9AA, A99 9AAB, E, G, L, M, N, S, WM1 1AE, B33 8TH
AA9 9AA, AA99 9AAAll other postcodesCR2 6XH, DN55 1PT
(GIR 0AA)|((([A-Z-[QVX]][0-9][0-9]?)|(([A-Z-[QVX]][A-Z-[IJZ]][0-9][0-9]?)|(([A-Z-[QVX]][0-9][A-HJKPSTUW])|([A-Z-[QVX]][A-Z-[IJZ]][0-9][ABEHMNPRVWXY])))) [0-9][A-Z-[CIKMOV]]{2})

Where first part:

 (GIR 0AA)|((([A-Z-[QVX]][0-9][0-9]?)|(([A-Z-[QVX]][A-Z-[IJZ]][0-9][0-9]?)|(([A-Z-[QVX]][0-9][A-HJKPSTUW])|([A-Z-[QVX]][A-Z-[IJZ]][0-9][ABEHMNPRVWXY]))))

Second:

[0-9][A-Z-[CIKMOV]]{2})

Validate a 12hr and 24hr time string

For a 12hour time format one can use:

^(?:0?[0-9]|1[0-2])[-:][0-5][0-9]\s*[ap]m$

Where

  • (?:0?[0-9]|1[0-2]) is the hour
  • [-:] is the separator, which can be adjusted to fit your need
  • [0-5][0-9] is the minute
  • \s*[ap]m followed any number of whitespace characters, and am or pm

If you need the seconds:

^(?:0?[0-9]|1[0-2])[-:][0-5][0-9][-:][0-5][0-9]\s*[ap]m$

For a 24hr time format:

^(?:[01][0-9]|2[0-3])[-:h][0-5][0-9]$

Where:

  • (?:[01][0-9]|2[0-3]) is the hour
  • [-:h] the separator, which can be adjusted to fit your need
  • [0-5][0-9] is the minute

With the seconds:

^(?:[01][0-9]|2[0-3])[-:h][0-5][0-9][-:m][0-5][0-9]$

Where [-:m] is a second separator, replacing the h for hours with an m for minutes, and [0-5][0-9] is the second.