The REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets is one of the most powerful yet underrated functions available. Many users shy away from using it, assuming the incorporation of regular expressions will make it too complex.

However, with a little guidance, the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets can become an invaluable tool in your spreadsheet skillset.

The presence of regular expressions in the formula often puts people off at first glance. But don’t let that deter you – regular expressions simply allow you to define flexible patterns to match against text.

With the right examples, the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets will be pretty easy to understand.

In this tutorial, we’ll cover how to use the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets step-by-step. Starting with basic use cases, we’ll build up to more advanced applications, showing you how to leverage regular expressions to supercharge your data analysis capabilities.

After reading today’s guide, you’ll learn to start incorporating the REGEXMATCH function into your day-to-day spreadsheet task.

## What is the Purpose of the REGEXMATCH Function in Google Sheets?

The REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets is part of a family of regular expression functions, alongside REGEXEXTRACT and REGEXREPLACE. Its core functionality is to check if a given text string matches a specified regular expression pattern.

When you use the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets, it will scan through the text you provide and attempt to find a match for the regular expression pattern you’ve defined. If a match is found, the function will return TRUE. If no match is found, it returns FALSE.

This TRUE/FALSE output from the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets makes it extremely useful for conditional formatting, filtering data, or setting up data validation rules based on whether cells contain text matching a certain regex pattern or not.

Rather than just checking for the existence of basic text, the power of the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets is that it allows you to define quite complex patterns to check for – making it an indispensable tool for working with structured data formats like emails, URLs, dates, and more.

## Understanding Regular Expressions for the REGEXMATCH Function in Google Sheets

To effectively use the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets, you need to understand the concept of regular expressions (regex for short). A regular expression is simply a pattern of text that defines a search criteria.

Rather than just searching for literal text strings, regular expressions allow you to define more flexible patterns using a mix of normal characters like letters and numbers, along with special metacharacters. These metacharacters act as placeholders or operators in the regex pattern.

When using the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets, it understands and can match against a wide variety of regex metacharacters. Here are some common examples:

Metacharacter | What it Represents |

^ | The caret (when not inside square brackets) represents the start of the string. It matches the pattern that follows it against the beginning of the text being searched. |

$ | In regular expressions, the dollar sign is used to represent the end of the string. It matches the pattern that precedes it against the ending of the text being searched. |

. | This metacharacter when used in regular expressions represents a single character |

? | The question mark is used to match zero or one occurrence of the preceding character or group. It makes the previous pattern optional, allowing it to either appear once or not appear at all. |

* | The asterisk is used to match zero or more occurrences of the preceding character or group. |

+ | The plus sign + is used to match one or more occurrences of the preceding character or group. It specifies that the previous pattern must be matched at least once, and potentially repeated. |

| | The vertical bar symbol “|” is used as the alternation operator. It allows you to match against one pattern OR another pattern on either side. |

() | In regular expressions, parentheses are used to define a capturing group. This groups multiple characters or metacharacters together into a sequence that the regex pattern will match as a single unit. |

[] | The square brackets in a regular expression define a character class, which will match any single character contained inside the brackets. |

[^] | The caret when used inside square brackets in a regular expression defines a negated character class, which will match any single character that is not one of the characters listed inside the brackets. |

\ | The backslash is used as an escape character. It allows you to match literal versions of metacharacters or special regex symbols that would normally have a different meaning. |

By leveraging these metacharacters in the regex pattern supplied to the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets, you can construct highly specific text patterns to search for. This allows matching much more complex criteria than just literal strings.

## Understanding the REGEXMATCH Function Syntax

Having understood some of the metacharacters you can use with the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets, it’s time you equally understand the syntax of this function.

Knowing this will make your job incredibly easy.

Here is what the REGEXMATCH function syntax looks like:

**REGEXMATCH(text, reg_pattern)**

From the REGEXMATCH syntax, you’ll notice two arguments:

- The first argument, text, is the actual text string that you want to check against a regular expression pattern. This could be a literal string value, a cell reference containing text, or another function that returns text.

- The second argument, regex_pattern, is where you define the regular expression that the text value will be matched against. This regex pattern can include metacharacters, character classes, anchors, quantifiers, and other regex syntaxes.

## Real-World Uses for the REGEXMATCH Function in Google Sheets

The REGEXMATCH function shines when you need to search for specific patterns, not just literal strings, within your data in Google Sheets. Here are some powerful use cases:

**Data Validation –**Easily validate that cell values follow a required pattern like email addresses, phone numbers, zip codes, etc using REGEXMATCH as criteria.

**Conditional Formatting –**Use REGEXMATCH to apply formatting rules based on whether values match or don’t match a regex pattern.

**Filtering –**Create filters that show only rows where a cell’s contents match or don’t match a specified regular expression.

**Textual Analysis –**Search through bodies of text, comments, or notes to find instances of patterns like dates, hashtags, URLs, etc.

**Data Extraction –**Parse out specific pieces of information from semi-structured text strings using regex capture groups.

**Data Cleaning –**Locate and remove/replace portions of text that match undesired patterns like special characters or profanity.

The possibilities are endless once you understand how to construct regular expressions to define the patterns you need. We’ll walk through some common examples next.

What makes REGEXMATCH so useful is its ability to identify and operate on patterns beyond just basic text matches. As you get more comfortable leveraging regular expressions, you’ll find more and more ways to integrate this powerful function.

## Access Sample Sheet

To help you follow along with the examples in this tutorial, we prepared a sample Google Sheet with the data we’ll be using. Having this editable sample sheet will allow you to practice using the REGEXMATCH function hands-on as we go through each step.

### Using REGEXMATCH to Find Cells Containing Specific Letters, Words, or Phrases

Having highlighted some of the use cases for the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets, it’s time to put this function to the test and show you how it works.

What we would like to start with is show you how to use the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets to search for a letter, word, or phrase

To demonstrate the entire process, we will use the following sample data.

Assuming we want to find out if cell A has the word “beautiful” in it. We can achieve that using the REGEXMACTH function. Read on as we show you how.

**Step 1: Choose an Empty Cell**

First, you need to choose an empty cell. This is where you want the match result to be. For this particular example, we will go with cell B1.

**Step 2: Input REGEXMACTH Formula**

After deciding where you want your match result to be, head to the formula and input the following formula:

**=REGEXMATCH(A1,”beautiful”)**

**Step 3: Hit Enter**

Having executed the formula as discussed in the previous step, it’s time to watch the magic happen. What you want to do is hit the Enter button on your keyboard. You should see the match result in the selected cell.

Here is what ours looks like:

Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that we have successfully used the REGEXMATCH function to find out if cell A1 contains the word beautiful.

From the result, you can see we got TRUE, which confirms that indeed that cell contains that word.

**Step 4: Checking for Multiple Whole Word Matches**

Let’s elevate our example to the next level. Imagine we wish to discover whether cell A1 contains any of the words “beautiful,” “city,” or “London.”

For this, we’ll employ the metacharacter “|” which signifies the OR operation in regular expressions.

To streamline the process and save you the hassle, we’ll dive directly into executing the formula.

What you want to do is navigate to the formula bar and apply the REGEXMATCH function with the following regular expression:

**=REGEXMATCH(A1, “beautiful|city|london”**)

After entering the formula as we described, hit the Enter button. You should see the result instantly generated in the selected cell.

Since cell A1 has one of the three words, it will return TRUE in the selected cell. Here is what that looks like with our sample data.

**Step 5: Checking for Any Digit Between 0-6**

Imagine a scenario where you need to check for a number in a specified cell using the REGEXMATCH function. Well, that’s absolutely possible and we can use our data to show you how it’s done.

As you did for the others, head over to the formula bar and input the following formula:

**=REGEXMATCH(A1, “[0-6]”)**

After inputting the formula like we showed you, hit the Enter button. You should get the result in the selected cell.

In our case, it returned FALSE and that’s because cell A1 doesn’t have any number between 0-6.

## Using the REGEXMATCH Function to Identify Cells that Start or End with a Specific Text

In the last few examples, we covered how to use the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets to identify cells containing specific letters, words, phrases, or digits anywhere within the cell value.

However, that’s just scratching the surface of this function’s capabilities when combined with regular expressions.

To unleash the power of REGEXMATCH, let’s look at how to check if cell values start or end with particular text patterns. This allows you to be more precise in your matching criteria.

Let’s say we want to know if any cell A1 starts with the word “paris” or “Paris” (matching both cases). We can use the ^ caret along with the | alternation operator.

We are going to demonstrate the entire process using the same sample data we used for the previous example.

Let’s jump right in.

**Step 1: Choose the Output Cell**

Choose a cell in your Google Sheet where you want the REGEXMATCH result to appear. This cell will populate with either TRUE or FALSE depending on whether the tested text matches the regex pattern.

For this example, let’s output the result into cell B1.

**Step 2: Input the REGEXMATCH Formula**

Now, head over to the formula bar and type in the following formula:

**=REGEXMATCH(A1, “^paris|^Paris”)**

**Step 3: Hit Enter**

Once you have inputted the formula like we discussed, all you need to is hit the Enter button on your keyboard.

You should see the result instantly in the selected cell.

Here is what ours looks like:

From the screenshot above, you can see that using the REGEXMATCH, we have been able to figure out if cell A1 starts with “paris” or “Paris”

**Step 4: Check if Cells End With “paris” or “Paris”**

Building on the previous example of checking if cells start with a certain word, we can also use REGEXMATCH to verify if cell values end with a specific text pattern.

Instead of using the ^ caret to match the start, we’ll utilize the $ dollar sign metacharacter which represents the end of the string.

Here is how to go about it. Navigate to the formula bar and input the following formula:

**=REGEXMATCH(A1, “paris|Paris$”)**

After constructing the REGEXMATCH function in the formula bar, hit Enter on your keyboard to calculate the result. The output cell you selected (in our example, B1) will now populate with either TRUE or FALSE.

For our example, we got FALSE and that’s because our reference cell doesn’t end with the word “paris or Paris”

**Step 5: Check if Cells Start with “Paris” AND End with “city”**

Going a step further, we can use REGEXMATCH to validate if a cell value matches a pattern at both the start and end simultaneously.

For this example, let’s check if cell A1 starts with the word “Paris” (capitalized) and ends with the word “city” (lowercase).

In the formula bar, enter this regular expression with REGEXMATCH:

**=REGEXMATCH(A1, “^Paris[a-zA-Z ]*city$”)**

**Breaking this down:**

- ^Paris matches values that start with “Paris”
- [a-zA-Z ]* matches any word characters (letters or spaces) in between

Paris and city

- The * allows there to be any number of characters between the start and end patterns

Executing this formula for our example will return TRUE and that’s because the data in our cell starts with “Paris” and ends with “city.”

## Using REGEXMATCH to Find Cells with Numbers

So far, we’ve covered how to use the REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets to identify cells that:

- Contain specific words, phrases, or patterns of text
- Start with certain text patterns
- End with certain text patterns
- Match text patterns at both the start and end

But guess what, you can also use the REGEXMATCH function to locate cells that contain different types of number values based on defined regex patterns.

However, before we delve into all that, let’s quickly add that the REGEXMATCH function only operates directly on cell values that contain text strings. What this means is that if you try to use REGEXMATCH on a naked number value, it will return an error.

But not to worry, there is a loophole we are going to show you that will allow you to use the REGEXMATCH function to find cells with numbers.

Here is the sample data we are going to use to demonstrate the whole process.

**Step 1: Select Data**

To start, go ahead and select your sample data. For this guide, we will select cells A2 to A6.

**Step 2: Convert Numbers to Text Strings**

As mentioned, the REGEXMATCH function can only operate directly on text values, not raw numbers. So before we can use regex patterns to match numeric data, we need to first convert those numbers to text string representations.

To do that, navigate to the Format menu and choose the option for Numbers. This will reveal several options. From those options, select Plain text.

**Step 3: Select an Output Cell for the Results**

Now that the cells containing your numeric data have been converted to text string format, we need to select a cell where the REGEXMATCH results will be output.

It’s a good practice to choose an empty cell in a different column from your original data. This way, the REGEXMATCH formula output won’t overwrite or disturb your source values.

For this example, let’s use cell B2 to display whether each corresponding row in column A matches the numeric pattern we define in the REGEXMATCH formula.

**Step 4: Construct the REGEXMATCH Formula**

With cell B2 selected, we can now build the REGEXMATCH formula in the formula bar to test the text values in column A against a numeric regex pattern.

To do that, enter the following formula:

**=REGEXMATCH(A2, “[1-9]”)**

Let’s break the formula down so you understand it better:

- =REGEXMATCH() is the function name
- A2 is the cell reference containing the text string (formerly numeric) value we want to test
- “[1-9]” is the regular expression pattern enclosed in quotes

**Step 5: Evaluate the Formula Output**

With the REGEXMATCH formula constructed in the formula bar, hit the Enter key on your keyboard. This will trigger Google Sheets to evaluate the regular expression pattern against the text value referenced in the formula.

The result, either TRUE or FALSE, will then instantly populate in the cell you selected for output – in our example, that’s cell B2.

Here is our result after executing the formula:

Now that we’ve walked through an example of using REGEXMATCH to locate cells containing numeric digits from 1-5, you should have a better understanding of how to leverage this function to check for different numeric patterns within text strings in your Google Sheets data.

## Using REGEXMATCH for Exact String Matching

In some cases, you might want to check if a cell’s contents are an exact character-for-character match of a specific text string, not just containing that string somewhere.

For example, let’s say you want to verify if cell A1 contains solely and precisely the text “paris” – not “Paris”, “beautiful”, or “city” – just the exact word “paris” by itself.

To perform this exact match using REGEXMATCH, we combine the caret ^ and dollar $ anchors.

Let’s show you how to go about it using the following sample data:

**Step 1: Select an Output Cell**

Following the same procedure as the previous examples, we first need to choose an empty cell where the result of the REGEXMATCH formula will be displayed.

For this “exact match” example, let’s select cell B1 to display whether the text in column A exactly matches the string pattern we define in the upcoming REGEXMATCH formula.

**Step 2: Construct the Exact REGEXMATCH Formula**

With cell B1 set as the output target, we can now build the REGEXMATCH formula in the formula bar to test for exact string matches.

What you want to do is enter the following formula:

**=REGEXMATCH(A1, “^paris$”)**

**Step 3: Evaluate the Formula Result**

With the REGEXMATCH formula defining the exact string match pattern entered into the formula bar, hit the Enter key on your keyboard. This will instruct Google Sheets to calculate the result against the referenced cell value.

For our sample data, we got FALSE and that’s because our sample data doesn’t have an exact character-for-character match of the regex pattern.

## Final Thoughts

The REGEXMATCH function in Google Sheets is an incredibly versatile tool that allows you to harness the power of regular expressions for data analysis, validation, and manipulation tasks within your spreadsheets. While regular expressions may seem intimidating at first, this tutorial has provided a solid foundation for understanding how to leverage REGEXMATCH effectively.

Throughout the examples, we covered a wide range of use cases, from finding cells containing specific words, phrases, or patterns to identifying cells that start or end with particular text, matching numeric values within text strings, and performing exact string matching.

By breaking down the syntax and components of regular expressions, such as metacharacters, character classes, anchors, and quantifiers, you’ve gained the ability to construct intricate patterns tailored to your unique data needs.

One of the key strengths of REGEXMATCH is its ability to transcend basic string matching and operate on complex patterns, making it invaluable for working with structured data formats like email addresses, phone numbers, URLs, and more. As you continue to practice and experiment with regular expressions, you’ll undoubtedly discover even more innovative applications for this powerful function.

While the initial learning curve for regular expressions may seem steep, the benefits of mastering REGEXMATCH in Google Sheets are well worth the effort. By incorporating this function into your spreadsheet workflows, you’ll streamline data validation, enhance conditional formatting, improve filtering capabilities, and unlock new levels of data extraction and cleaning possibilities.

Remember, the examples provided in this tutorial are just the tip of the iceberg. As your regular expression skills evolve, you’ll find yourself able to tackle increasingly complex challenges, pushing the boundaries of what you can achieve with your data in Google Sheets.