RegExp.prototype.exec()

The exec() method executes a search for a match in a specified string. Returns a result array, or null.

JavaScript RegExp objects are stateful when they have the global or sticky flags set (e.g. /foo/g or /foo/y). They store a lastIndex from the previous match. Using this internally, exec() can be used to iterate over multiple matches in a string of text (with capture groups), as opposed to getting just the matching strings with String.prototype.match().

A newer function has been proposed to simplify matching multiple parts of a string (with capture groups): String.prototype.matchAll().

If you are executing a match simply to find true or false, use RegExp.prototype.test() method or String.prototype.search() instead.

Syntax

regexObj.exec(str)

Parameters

str
The string against which to match the regular expression.

Return value

If the match succeeds, the exec() method returns an array (with extra properties index and input; see below) and updates the lastIndex property of the regular expression object. The returned array has the matched text as the first item, and then one item for each parenthetical capture group of the matched text.

If the match fails, the exec() method returns null, and sets lastIndex to 0.

Description

Consider the following example:

// Match "quick brown" followed by "jumps", ignoring characters in between
// Remember "brown" and "jumps"
// Ignore case
let re = /quick\s(brown).+?(jumps)/ig;
let result = re.exec('The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog');

The following table shows the results for this script:

Object Property/Index     Description Example
result [0] The full string of characters matched "Quick Brown Fox Jumps"
[1], ...[n]

The parenthesized substring matches, if any.

The number of possible parenthesized substrings is unlimited.    

result[1] === "Brown"

result[2] === "Jumps"

index The 0-based index of the match in the string.     4
input The original string that was matched against.     "The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog"
re lastIndex

The index at which to start the next match.

If g is absent, this will always be 0.    

25
ignoreCase Indicates if the i flag was used to ignore case.     true
global Indicates if the g flag was used for a global match. true
multiline Indicates if the m flag was used to search across multiple lines. false
source The text of the pattern. "quick\s(brown).+?(jumps)"

Examples

Finding successive matches

If your regular expression uses the "g" flag, you can use the exec() method multiple times to find successive matches in the same string. When you do so, the search starts at the substring of str specified by the regular expression's lastIndex property (test() will also advance the lastIndex property).  Note that the lastIndex property will not be reset when searching a different string, it will start its search at its existing lastIndex .

For example, assume you have this script:

let myRe = /ab*/g;
let str = 'abbcdefabh';
let myArray;
while ((myArray = myRe.exec(str)) !== null) {
  let msg = 'Found ' + myArray[0] + '. ';
  msg += 'Next match starts at ' + myRe.lastIndex;
  console.log(msg);
}

This script displays the following text:

Found abb. Next match starts at 3
Found ab. Next match starts at 9

Warning: Do not place the regular expression literal (or RegExp constructor) within the while condition!

It will create an infinite loop if there is a match, due to the lastIndex property being reset upon each iteration.

Also, be sure that the global flag ("g") is set, or it will also cause an infinite loop.

Using exec() with RegExp literals

You can also use exec() without creating a RegExp object explicitly:

let matches = /(hello \S+)/.exec('This is a hello world!');
console.log(matches[1]);

This will log a message containing 'hello world!'.

Specifications

Specification Status Comment
ECMAScript 3rd Edition (ECMA-262) Standard Initial definition. Implemented in JavaScript 1.2.
ECMAScript 5.1 (ECMA-262)
The definition of 'RegExp.exec' in that specification.
Standard
ECMAScript 2015 (6th Edition, ECMA-262)
The definition of 'RegExp.exec' in that specification.
Standard
ECMAScript Latest Draft (ECMA-262)
The definition of 'RegExp.exec' in that specification.
Draft

Browser compatibility

Update compatibility data on GitHub
DesktopMobileServer
ChromeEdgeFirefoxInternet ExplorerOperaSafariAndroid webviewChrome for AndroidFirefox for AndroidOpera for AndroidSafari on iOSSamsung InternetNode.js
execChrome Full support 1Edge Full support 12Firefox Full support 1IE Full support 4Opera Full support YesSafari Full support 1WebView Android Full support 1Chrome Android Full support 18Firefox Android Full support 4Opera Android Full support YesSafari iOS Full support 1Samsung Internet Android Full support 1.0nodejs Full support Yes

Legend

Full support  
Full support

See also