How can I write a regex which matches non greedy?

How can I write a regex which matches non greedy?

The non-greedy ? works perfectly fine. Its just that you need to select dot matches all option in the regex engines (regexpal, the engine you used, also has this option) you are testing with. This is because, regex engines generally dont match line breaks when you use .. You need to tell them explicitly that you want to match line-breaks too with .

For example,


works fine!

Check the results here.

Also, read about how dot behaves in various regex flavours.

The ? operand makes match non-greedy. E.g. .* is greedy while .*? isnt. So you can use something like <img.*?> to match the whole tag. Or <img[^>]*>.

But remember that the whole set of HTML cant be actually parsed with regular expressions.

How can I write a regex which matches non greedy?

The other answers here presuppose that you have a regex engine which supports non-greedy matching, which is an extension introduced in Perl 5 and widely copied to other modern languages; but it is by no means ubiquitous.

Many older or more conservative languages and editors only support traditional regular expressions, which have no mechanism for controlling greediness of the repetition operator * – it always matches the longest possible string.

The trick then is to limit what its allowed to match in the first place. Instead of .* you seem to be looking for


which still matches as many of something as possible; but the something is not just . any character, but instead any character which isnt >.

Depending on your application, you may or may not want to enable an option to permit any character to include newlines.

Even if your regular expression engine supports non-greedy matching, its better to spell out what you actually mean. If this is what you mean, you should probably say this, instead of rely on non-greedy matching to (hopefully, probably) Do What I Mean.

For example, a regular expression with a trailing context after the wildcard like .*?><br/> will jump over any nested > until it finds the trailing context (here, ><br/>) even if that requires straddling multiple > instances and newlines if you let it, where [^>]*><br/> (or even [^n>]*><br/> if you have to explicitly disallow newline) obviously cant and wont do that.

Of course, this is still not what you want if you need to cope with <img title=quoted string with > in it src=other attributes> and perhaps <img title=nested tags>, but at that point, you should finally give up on using regular expressions for this like we all told you in the first place.

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