I need to check the end of a URL for the possible existence of /news_archive or /news_archive/5 in PHP. The below snippet does exactly what I want, but I know that I could achieve this with one preg_match rather than two. How can I improve this code to treat the /5 as an optional segment and capture it if it exists?

if (preg_match('~/[0-9A-Za-z_-]+_archive/[0-9]+$~', $_SERVER['HTTP_REFERER'], $matches) || preg_match('~/[0-9A-Za-z_-]+_archive$~', $_SERVER['HTTP_REFERER'], $matches)) {
    $page_info['parent_page']['page_label'] = ltrim($matches[0], '/');

1 Answer 1


Consider your first pattern:


Let's break it down:

  1. / a literal string /
  2. [0-9A-Za-z_-]+ one or more of 0-9, A-Z, a-z, _ or -
  3. _archive a literal string _archive
  4. / literal slash again
  5. [0-9]+ one or more digits
  6. $ the end of the string must follow the one or more digits

So basically you want to make #4 and #5 optional. To be more specific, you want either both 4 and 5, or neither 4 nor 5.

Consider this:


This means that you have one a followed by one or more b, and that this grouped a/b entity is optional.

Letting a be #4 and b be digits like in #5, we're left with:




This will capture the entire group though, like /5:

php -r "preg_match('~/[0-9A-Za-z_-]+_archive(/([0-9]+))?$~', '/news_archive/5', $m); var_dump($m);"
array(2) {
  [0] =>
  string(15) "/news_archive/5"
  [1] =>
  string(2) "/5"

You can just add another group to remedy that though:



php -r "preg_match('~/[0-9A-Za-z_-]+_archive(/([0-9]+))?$~', '/news_archive/44', $m); var_dump($m);"
array(3) {
  [0] =>
  string(16) "/news_archive/44"
  [1] =>
  string(3) "/44"
  [2] =>
  string(2) "44"

You could technically make the outside group a non-capturing group (like (?:/([0-9]+))?), but I don't think the added complication is worth not grabbing the / part too.

(By the way, sorry if you're familiar with regex and you found this excessive. I tend to take a very verbose approach to any regex related question :).)

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a fantastic response, and certainly more than I expected. In a good way. I am fairly unfamiliar with regex itself, so the thorough analysis was a pleasant and refreshing lesson! Thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – davo0105
    Oct 5, 2012 at 22:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @davo0105 Glad I could help! :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Corbin
    Oct 6, 2012 at 3:58

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