I have a file with country names and then the mobile country code prefix for that country like this:

United Kingdom   +44  ...more fields
United States Virgin Islands +1  ...more fields

I need to get the country name and the mobile prefix. So the regular expression reads like: read all words from the beginning of the line and then a string that starts with a plus and one more more digits and then stop.

I tried a few things with grep, cut, and even sed but I can't get it.

  • What character delimits the fields/words of the data? Space or tab? – Kusalananda May 29 at 10:01
  • 1
    It's a space delimited file – C.S May 29 at 10:09
  • If you can use perl you could use something like this: cat /tmp/b.log | perl -ne '/(United.*)(\+[0-9]{1,2})/ && print ("1:" . $1 . "2: ". $2 . "\n")'. This assumes that /tmp/b.log is your file. This prints: 1:United Kingdom 2: +44 <CR> 1:United States Virgin Islands 2: +1 – mnille May 29 at 10:30
  • @mnille perl is too brutal for me. – C.S May 29 at 11:37

try with:

grep -o '^[^+]*+[0-9]\+' infile

[^+]*+ matches everything until first + found followed by one-or-more digits [0-9]\+

  • This will return the whole line but I want to do is extract the country and the mobile prefix. That's why I tried to use cut – C.S May 29 at 10:10
  • 1
    @C.S Using GNU grep, the given command does exactly what you seem to want to do on my machine. What Unix are you using? – Kusalananda May 29 at 10:25
  • No, it works. Cheers – C.S May 29 at 10:29

Command line:

$ perl -lne 'print /^(.*?\+\d+)/' input.txt

This will get you the desired info from the input.


  • /^(.*?\+\d+)/ regex shall extract everything upto the first occurrence of a plus symbol followed by atleast one digit symbol.
  • Since this is hooked to the BOL via the ^ caret symbol, so obviously only one matching can happen.
  • The matching is passed on to the print function.
  • -lne options are to run Perl code given in the -e option on each line of the input.file. -n makes perl not to print anything unless specifically asked to.


United Kingdom   +44
United States Virgin Islands +1

Since you say space is the delimiter used in your file, you should be able to use

cut -d ' ' -f 1-5 filename

to extract the five first columns from the file.

For the given data, this produces

United Kingdom   +44
United States Virgin Islands +1

... but I'm assuming that this is only by luck, as a country with more than two words in its name would span multiple fields (not just two).

A more robust method using sed to delete everything after the first set of digits on each line (i.e., everything after the country code):

sed 's/\([[:digit:]][[:digit:]]*\).*/\1/' filename


sed 's/\([[:digit:]]\{1,\}\).*/\1/' filename

or, with -E and an extended regular expression instead,

sed -E 's/([[:digit:]]+).*/\1/' filename
  • Or sed 's/\([[:digit:]]\{1,\}\).*/\1/', \{1,\} being the standard BRE equivalent of ERE +. – Stéphane Chazelas Jun 6 at 11:54

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