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So, it took me ages, but I finally learned to think in terms of regular expressions, thanks to using them in kwrite.

But I still don't know how to translate that knowledge to grep. I love my grep, when I know what I'm doing with it, but the manual has always given me a headache.

I'd like to match stuff like the following lines:

ANEW line.

That is, lines that begin with two or more capital letters. But I can't figure out how.

In kwrite, I would match these lines using:


But grep... hmm. I have a feeling like it's something like:

me@ROOROO:~/$ grep "^[A-Z]something" filename


me@ROOROO:~/$ grep "^[A-Z][A-Z]+" filename

doesn't work (returns an empty file). A google search for the term 'grep match one or more occurrence' lead me to believe that

me@ROOROO:~/$ grep "^[A-Z][A-Z]*" filename

was the right syntax. But, alas, that doesn't do the trick.

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In the old days, each tool had its own regexp syntax. By default, grep uses its traditional syntax; use grep -E to have a more habitual syntax where a backslash followed by a non-alphanumeric character is never special. –  Gilles Feb 10 '12 at 23:47

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You're using the right syntax in your first example; the problem is + is only considered special when using "extended" regular expressions. From the grep man page:

Basic vs Extended Regular Expressions

In basic regular expressions the meta-characters ?, +, {, |, (, and ) lose their special meaning; instead use the backslashed versions \?, \+, \{, \|, \(, and \).

So, you either need to escape the +:

$ grep "^[A-Z][A-Z]\+" filename

Or turn on extended regular expressions, by passing grep the -E flag or just running egrep:

$ grep -E "^[A-Z][A-Z]+" filename
$ egrep "^[A-Z][A-Z]+" filename

In your other example you tried:

$ grep "^[A-Z][A-Z]*" filename

* works in basic regular expressions, but it matches 0 or more times, not 1 or more. The solution in your answer works because it says "match a capital, then another capital, then 0 or more capitals". The method in the question says "match a capital, then 1 or more capitals", which is the same. You can also use {min,max} to specify exactly how many you want, and if you leave out max it allows any number (this also requires extended regular expressions):

$ egrep "^[A-Z]{2,}"
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+1, that's an incredibly useful answer. –  ixtmixilix Feb 10 '12 at 19:39

You just need to add an extra [A-Z]. So, it's

me@ROOROO:~/$ grep "^[A-Z][A-Z][A-Z]*" filename
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Looks like you need a regexp support from perl. Form man grep:

   -P, --perl-regexp
          Interpret  PATTERN  as  a Perl regular expression.  This is highly experimental
          and grep -P may warn of unimplemented features.

So grep -P "^[A-Z][A-Z]+" could be more helpful.

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