Take the pattern


Can the string UUG match against it? I mean to say, is repetition allowed?

2 Answers 2


In principle yes, but that may depend on the regex flavor you are using. At the very least, BRE, ERE and PCRE will all match that string. The expression [UGLER]* means match 0 or more consecutive characters from the set of U,G,L,E or R.

You can test this for different regex types easily enough:

  • BRE

    $ echo UUG | grep '[UGLER]*'
  • ERE

    $ echo UUG | grep -E '[UGLER]*'
  • PCRE

    $ echo UUG | grep -P '[UGLER]*'

Of course, since you are looking for zero or more, it will also match things you might not be expecting:

$echo "foobar" | grep  '[UGLER]*'

If the regex flavor you are using supports it, use the + instead of *. For example, with PCRE:

 $echo -e "UUG\nfoobar" | grep -P '[UGLER]*'
 $echo -e "UUG\nfoobar" | grep -P '[UGLER]+'
  • all regexp flavours support + - but some require you to write it as \+
    – cas
    Sep 18, 2013 at 3:19
  • @CraigSanders OK, thanks. I didn't want to generalize because for all I know there is some kind of obscure regex engine from the 60s that only works in lisp machines and has its own weird syntax ;).
    – terdon
    Sep 18, 2013 at 3:20
  • 1
    @CraigSanders, no, standard BRE don't support \+, that's a GNUism. See there for more details. Sep 18, 2013 at 6:08
  • Stephane is (of course) right. For portability, instead of [UGLER]+, use [UGLER][UGLER]* (ie, one occurence, followed by 0, 1 or many occurence) Sep 18, 2013 at 8:46
  • 1
    @OlivierDulac, note that grep -E '[UGLER]+' and grep '[UGLER]\{1,\}' are standard, it's just grep '[UGLER]\+' that isn't. Sep 18, 2013 at 12:39

Assuming that your pattern is a fileglob pattern and not a regexp, then yes it will match a filename called 'UUG'. The pattern will match any file starting with U, G, L, E, or R.

you can test this yourself with:

touch UUG
ls -l [UGLER]*

If the pattern is a regexp, then it will match ANY string, because you are matching against zero-or-more instances of [UGLER]. If you want to match 1-or-more rather than zero-or-more, then use + instead of *

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