question on pattern

Kragen Sitaker kragen at
Tue Jun 11 00:19:44 CEST 2002

sjmachin at (John Machin) writes:
> You have got an answer to your problem of how to get DOTALL behaviour
> with .findall(). However you should be aware that your pattern can
> match strings that are not syntactically C or C++ comments. Here is an
> example from page 172 of "Mastering Regular Expressions" by Jeffrey E.
> F. Friedl:
>    const char *cstart = "/*", *cend = "*/";
> I'd agree that it's a pathological case. I'm just pointing out that in
> most work on program source files, to be 100% correct you need to have
> a lexical analyser for the language in question. Regexes won't take
> you the whole distance.

It's true that you need a lexical analyzer for the language, but most
languages (C and C++) can be lexically analyzed with a regular
expression.  Indeed, lex essentially compiles a big regular expression
into C.

It's also possible that a lexical analyzer suitable for parsing will
make a lot of distinctions, such as between { and 3 and strcpy, that
aren't relevant for some particular application.  In particular, a
regular expression to find comments that handles C string and
character constants correctly is relatively simple, although harder
than you'd think.  Friedl brings up the problem on page 172, as you
say, but solves it on page 173.

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