The String `match()` Function in JavaScript

Feb 2, 2023

JavaScript Strings have a match() method that returns an array if the string matches a given regular expression, or null otherwise.

'abc'.match(/a/); // [ 'a', index: 0, input: 'abc', groups: undefined ]
'abc'.match(/z/); // null

// Use `match()` to check if a string matches a regexp
if (str.match(regexp) != null) {
  // matches!

match() is very similar to the RegExp test() method, which returns true if a regexp matches a given string.

/a/.test('abc'); // true
/z/.test('abc'); // false

If all you want to do is test whether a string matches a regexp, you should use test() because test() is slightly faster. However, match() has some helpful advanced features.

Capture Groups

The match() function's return value contains the regular expressions' capture groups. A capture group is a subsection of the regular expression in parentheses (). For example, \d is a capture group in the following.

const arr = 'There are 4 lights'.match(/(\d) lights/);

arr[0]; // "4 lights", the complete match
arr[1]; // "4", the first capture group

Capture groups are useful for pulling subsections of a given regular expression result. For example, below is how you can use capture groups to convert a date in YYYY-MM-DD format into year, month, and day.

const str = '2022-06-01';

// 4 digits, dash, 2 digits, dash, 2 digits. The 4 digits, 2 digits, 2 digits
// are capture groups.
const [year, month, day] = str.match(/(\d{4})-(\d{2})-(\d{2})/).slice(1, 4);

year; // '2022'
month; // '06'
day; // '01'

Note that capture groups do not work if you specify the g flag on your regular expression.

Practical Example: Standardizing US Telephone Numbers

There are many different ways to write a US telephone number. All the below examples are not uncommon.

+1 201-693-0123
+1 (201)-693-0123
201 693 0123

Suppose you want to standardize, and always store 2016930123, but allow all the other formats? Use the following regular expression: optional leading +1 as a capture group, and then capture groups for the area code, telephone prefix, and line number.

/^(\+1\s?)?\(?([\d]{3})\)?[-. ]?([\d]{3})[-. ]?([\d]{4})$/

Assuming there is a match, the following will convert a telephone number in any of the given formats to 2016930123

const processedTelephoneNumber = telephone.
  match(/^(\+1\s?)?\(?([\d]{3})\)?[-. ]?([\d]{3})[-. ]?([\d]{4})$/).
  slice(2, 5).

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