what the different between these two regex expression ?

AB\{4\} and (AB)\{4\}

for the first expression I think that it repeat B 4 times, then for second expression it

repeats AB 4 times. When I try to test the second expression using ABABABAB nothing matches.

  • What tool are you using as a regex engine?
    – Joseph R.
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 23:12
  • I just tested in bash by creating a file and then use grep command Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 23:14
  • Try escaping the braces with a backslash
    – Joseph R.
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 23:18
  • sorry that was in the original question, I guess need to put \\ in order to show the backslash on stack exchange Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 23:20
  • 3
    Write it (AB){4} if it's a ERE, \(AB\)\{4\} if it's a BRE. Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 23:22

1 Answer 1


grep by default uses BREs, so you need to escape your parentheses:

grep 'AB\{4\}'
grep '\(AB\)\{4\}'

You can also use EREs by passing the -E option, available on some grep implementations:

grep -E 'AB{4}'
grep -E '(AB){4}'
  • For what it's worth, -E is specified by POSIX, and grep -E is sometimes available as egrep (although this invocation is now deprecated).
    – rahmu
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 23:43
  • @rahmu POSIX still doesn't cover the entire range of Unices, and egrep isn't specified by POSIX.
    – Chris Down
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 0:05

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