I use the regular expression to handle the string "abc123". The command below is work and return value "c123"

echo abc123 | grep -o [a-z][0-9]*$

But the command below does not work.

echo abc123 | grep -o [a-z][0-9]+$

Why do I get this result?

I knew the '*' is used to matches the preceding pattern element zero or more time, and '+' is used to matches the preceding pattern element at least one or more time.

So this situation makes me confused.


+ is only a quantifier in extended regular expressions (ERE):

$ echo abc123 | grep -Eo '[a-z][0-9]+$'

In basic regular expressions (BRE) it matches literal +, although you can use \{1,\} instead, or in GNU grep (-o is already a GNU extension anyway), \+:

$ echo abc123 | grep -o '[a-z][0-9]\+$'

(note the quotes to prevent [ and \ from being interpreted by the shell).

  • Just a comment on @StéphaneChazelas' edit: -o is a GNU extension, but it's also available in (some) other grep implementations. However, \+ in a basic regular expression is GNU-only as far as I know. – Kusalananda Dec 12 '18 at 8:15
  • @Kusalananda, I agree it's a bit of a shortcut. Several other implementations have picked some of the GNU extensions over the years. \+ is also found in some non-GNU implementations like busybox or ast-open. Also note that many BSDs still use a fork of an old GNU grep, so will support old GNU extensions like those. – Stéphane Chazelas Dec 12 '18 at 8:24

+ in grep need to be escaped to take effect. Instead of

echo abc123 | grep -o [a-z][0-9]+$

You need to write

echo abc123 | grep -o '[a-z][0-9]\+$'

There are other characters that need to be escaped as well. It is also good practice to put your regex in single quotes.

You can also use egrep which is a synonym of grep -E and uses Extended RE, as commented by @muru.

  • Or use ERE with -E – muru Dec 12 '18 at 4:01
  • The escaped + in basic regular expressions is a non-standard GNU extension. – Kusalananda Dec 12 '18 at 6:57

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