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I like grep -v. I use it all the time. But I am also doing some text processing in python, and there is one crucial thing that I lack.

Usually, I use grep -v to take extraneous stuff out of text.

For instance,

$grep -v [a-z]
(confirms that I don't want those lines)
$grep [a-z] > linesiwanted

But how do I match the complement of a regex in Python? For instance, the complement of \w?

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see… – Sirex Feb 23 '12 at 15:53

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

A regex in Python, either the search or match methods, returns a Match object or None. For grep -v equivalent, you might use:

import re
for line in sys.stdin:
    if'[a-z]', line) is None:

Or more concisely:

import re; sys.stdout.writelines([line for line in sys.stdin if'[a-z]', line) is None])
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+1 the SO link in the comment mentions negative-lookahead assertions but to be honest i think your snippet is much more sensible and elegant. thanks. – ixtmixilix Feb 24 '12 at 0:58
it turns out you can also use [^a-z] to match the complement of the set [a-z] – ixtmixilix Feb 24 '12 at 12:29

It turns out you can just use [^a-z] to mean grep -v [a-z].

I'm using it like:

#!/usr/bin/env python
# coding=UTF-8

import sys, re

for file in sys.argv[1:]:
    f = open(file)
    string =
    regex = re.compile('[^a-z]')
    subs = regex.sub('', string)
    print subs
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