Tim Pietzcker Tim Pietzcker - 3 months ago 11
Python Question

Why doesn't Python's `re.split()` split on zero-length matches?

One particular quirk of the (otherwise quite powerful)

module in Python is that
will never split a string on a zero-length match, for example if I want to split a string along word boundaries:

>>> re.split(r"\s+|\b", "Split along words, preserve punctuation!")
['Split', 'along', 'words,', 'preserve', 'punctuation!']

instead of

['', 'Split', 'along', 'words', ',', 'preserve', 'punctuation', '!']

Why does it have this limitation? Is it by design? Do other regex flavors behave like this?


It's a design decision that was made, and could have gone either way. Tim Peters made this post to explain:

For example, if you split "abc" by the pattern x*, what do you expect? The pattern matches (with length 0) at 4 places, but I bet most people would be surprised to get

['', 'a', 'b', 'c', '']

back instead of (as they do get)


Some others disagree with him though. Guido van Rossum doesn't want it changed due to backwards compatibility issues. He did say:

I'm okay with adding a flag to enable this behavior though.


There is a workaround posted by Jan Burgy:

>>> s = "Split along words, preserve punctuation!"
>>> re.sub(r"\s+|\b", '\f', s).split('\f')
['', 'Split', 'along', 'words', ',', 'preserve', 'punctuation', '!']

Where '\f' can be replaced by any unused character.