Patterns

Introduction to Patterns
Patterns are used throughout the Wolfram Language to represent classes of expressions. A simple example of a pattern is the expression f[x_]. This pattern represents the class of expressions with the form f[anything].
The main power of patterns comes from the fact that many operations in the Wolfram Language can be done not only with single expressions, but also with patterns that represent whole classes of expressions.
You can use patterns in transformation rules to specify how classes of expressions should be transformed:
You can use patterns to find the positions of all expressions in a particular class:
The basic object that appears in almost all Wolfram Language patterns is _ (traditionally called "blank" by Wolfram Language programmers). The fundamental rule is simply that _ stands for any expression. On most keyboards the _ underscore character appears as the shifted version of the - dash character.
Thus, for example, the pattern f[_] stands for any expression of the form f[anything]. The pattern f[x_] also stands for any expression of the form f[anything], but gives the name x to the expression anything, allowing you to refer to it on the righthand side of a transformation rule.
You can put blanks anywhere in an expression. What you get is a pattern which matches all expressions that can be made by "filling in the blanks" in any way.
 f[n_] f with any argument, named n f[n_,m_] f with two arguments, named n and m x^n_ x to any power, with the power named n x_^n_ any expression to any power a_+b_ a sum of two expressions {a1_,a2_} a list of two expressions f[n_,n_] f with two identical arguments
Some examples of patterns.
You can construct patterns for expressions with any structure:
One of the most common uses of patterns is for "destructuring" function arguments. If you make a definition for f[list_], then you need to use functions like Part explicitly in order to pick out elements of the list. But if you know for example that the list will always have two elements, then it is usually much more convenient instead to give a definition instead for f[{x_,y_}]. Then you can refer to the elements of the list directly as x and y. In addition, the Wolfram Language will not use the definition you have given unless the argument of f really is of the required form of a list of two expressions.
Here is one way to define a function which takes a list of two elements, and evaluates the first element raised to the power of the second element:
Here is a much more elegant way to make the definition, using a pattern:
A crucial point to understand is that Wolfram Language patterns represent classes of expressions with a given structure. One pattern will match a particular expression if the structure of the pattern is the same as the structure of the expression, in the sense that by filling in blanks in the pattern you can get the expression. Even though two expressions may be mathematically equal, they cannot be represented by the same Wolfram Language pattern unless they have the same structure.
Thus, for example, the pattern (1+x_)^2 can stand for expressions like (1+a)^2 or (1+b^3)^2 that have the same structure. However, it cannot stand for the expression 1+2a+a^2. Although this expression is mathematically equal to (1+a)^2, it does not have the same structure as the pattern (1+x_)^2.
The fact that patterns in the Wolfram Language specify the structure of expressions is crucial in making it possible to set up transformation rules which change the structure of expressions, while leaving them mathematically equal.
It is worth realizing that in general it would be quite impossible for the Wolfram Language to match patterns by mathematical, rather than structural, equivalence. In the case of expressions like (1+a)^2 and 1+2a+a^2, you can determine equivalence just by using functions like Expand and Factor. But, as discussed in "Reducing Expressions to Their Standard Form" there is no general way to find out whether an arbitrary pair of mathematical expressions are equal.
As another example, the pattern x^_ will match the expression x^2. It will not, however, match the expression 1, even though this could be considered as x^0. "Optional and Default Arguments" discusses how to construct a pattern for which this particular case will match. But you should understand that in all cases pattern matching in the Wolfram Language is fundamentally structural.
The x^n_ matches only x^2 and x^3. 1 and x can mathematically be written as , but do not have the same structure:
Another point to realize is that the structure the Wolfram Language uses in pattern matching is the full form of expressions printed by FullForm. Thus, for example, an object such as 1/x, whose full form is Power[x,-1] will be matched by the pattern x_^n_, but not by the pattern x_/y_, whose full form is Times[x_,Power[y_,-1]]. Again, "Optional and Default Arguments" will discuss how you can construct patterns which can match all these cases.
The expressions in the list contain explicit powers of b, so the transformation rule can be applied:
Here is the full form of the list:
Although the Wolfram Language does not use mathematical equivalences such as when matching patterns, it does use certain structural equivalences. Thus, for example, the Wolfram Language takes account of properties such as commutativity and associativity in pattern matching.
To apply this transformation rule, the Wolfram Language makes use of the commutativity and associativity of addition:
The discussion considers only pattern objects such as x_ which can stand for any single expression. Other tutorials discuss the constructs that the Wolfram System uses to extend and restrict the classes of expressions represented by patterns.
Finding Expressions That Match a Pattern
 Cases[list,form] give the elements of list that match form Count[list,form] give the number of elements in list that match form Position[list,form,{1}] give the positions of elements in list that match form Select[list,test] give the elements of list on which test gives True Pick[list,sel,form] give the elements of list for which the corresponding elements of sel match form
Finding elements that match a pattern.
This gives the elements of the list which match the pattern x^_:
Here is the total number of elements which match the pattern:
You can apply functions like Cases not only to lists, but to expressions of any kind. In addition, you can specify the level of parts at which you want to look.
 Cases[expr,lhs->rhs] find elements of expr that match lhs, and give a list of the results of applying the transformation rule to them Cases[expr,lhs->rhs,lev] test parts of expr at levels specified by lev Count[expr,form,lev] give the total number of parts that match form at levels specified by lev Position[expr,form,lev] give the positions of parts that match form at levels specified by lev
Searching for parts of expressions that match a pattern.
This returns a list of the exponents n:
The pattern _Integer matches any integer. This gives a list of integers appearing at any level:
 Cases[expr,form,lev,n] find only the first n parts that match form Position[expr,form,lev,n] give the positions of the first n parts that match form
Limiting the number of parts to search for.
This gives the positions of the first two powers of x appearing at any level:
The positions are specified in exactly the form used by functions such as Extract and ReplacePart discussed in "Lists":
 DeleteCases[expr,form] delete elements of expr that match form DeleteCases[expr,form,lev] delete parts of expr that match form at levels specified by lev
Deleting parts of expressions that match a pattern.
This deletes the elements which match x^n_:
This deletes all integers appearing at any level:
 ReplaceList[expr,lhs->rhs] find all ways that expr can match lhs
Finding arrangements of an expression that match a pattern.
This finds all ways that the sum can be written in two parts:
This finds all pairs of identical elements. The pattern ___ stands for any sequence of elements:
Naming Pieces of Patterns
Particularly when you use transformation rules, you often need to name pieces of patterns. An object like x_ stands for any expression, but gives the expression the name x. You can then, for example, use this name on the righthand side of a transformation rule.
An important point is that when you use x_, the Wolfram Language requires that all occurrences of blanks with the same name x in a particular expression must stand for the same expression.
Thus f[x_,x_] can only stand for expressions in which the two arguments of f are exactly the same. f[_,_], on the other hand, can stand for any expression of the form f[x,y], where x and y need not be the same.
The transformation rule applies only to cases where the two arguments of f are identical:
The Wolfram Language allows you to give names not just to single blanks, but to any piece of a pattern. The object x:pattern in general represents a pattern which is assigned the name x. In transformation rules, you can use this mechanism to name exactly those pieces of a pattern that you need to refer to on the righthand side of the rule.
 _ any expression x_ any expression, to be named x x:pattern an expression to be named x, matching pattern
Patterns with names.
This gives a name to the complete form _^_ so you can refer to it as a whole on the righthand side of the transformation rule:
Here the exponent is named n, while the whole object is x:
When you give the same name to two pieces of a pattern, you constrain the pattern to match only those expressions in which the corresponding pieces are identical.
Here the pattern matches both cases:
Now both arguments of f are constrained to be the same, and only the first case matches:
Specifying Types of Expression in Patterns
You can tell a lot about what "type" of expression something is by looking at its head. Thus, for example, an integer has head Integer, while a list has head List.
In a pattern, _h and x_h represent expressions that are constrained to have head h. Thus, for example, _Integer represents any integer, while _List represents any list.
 x_h an expression with head h x_Integer an integer x_Real an approximate real number x_Complex a complex number x_List a list x_Symbol a symbol
Patterns for objects with specified heads.
This replaces just those elements that are integers:
You can think of making an assignment for f[x_Integer] as like defining a function f that must take an argument of "type" Integer.
This defines a value for the function gamma when its argument is an integer:
The definition applies only when the argument of gamma is an integer:
The object 4. has head Real, so the definition does not apply:
This defines values for expressions with integer exponents:
The definition is used only when the exponent is an integer:
Putting Constraints on Patterns
The Wolfram Language provides a general mechanism for specifying constraints on patterns. All you need to do is to put /;condition at the end of a pattern to signify that it applies only when the specified condition is True. You can read the operator /; as "slashsemi", "whenever", or "provided that".
 pattern/;condition a pattern that matches only when a condition is satisfied lhs:>rhs/;condition a rule that applies only when a condition is satisfied lhs:=rhs/;condition a definition that applies only when a condition is satisfied
Putting conditions on patterns and transformation rules.
This gives a definition for fac that applies only when its argument n is positive:
The definition for fac is used only when the argument is positive:
This gives the negative elements in the list:
You can use /; on whole definitions and transformation rules, as well as on individual patterns. In general, you can put /;condition at the end of any := definition or :> rule to tell the Wolfram Language that the definition or rule applies only when the specified condition holds. Note that /; conditions should not usually be put at the end of = definitions or -> rules, since they will then be evaluated immediately, as discussed in "Immediate and Delayed Definitions".
Here is another way to give a definition that applies only when its argument n is positive:
Once again, the factorial functions evaluate only when their arguments are positive:
You can use the /; operator to implement arbitrary mathematical constraints on the applicability of rules. In typical cases, you give patterns which structurally match a wide range of expressions, but then use mathematical constraints to reduce the range of expressions to a much smaller set.
This rule applies only to expressions that have the structure v[x_,1-x_]:
This expression has the appropriate structure, so the rule applies:
This expression, while mathematically of the correct form, does not have the appropriate structure, so the rule does not apply:
This rule applies to any expression of the form w[x_,y_], with the added restriction that y==1-x:
The new rule does apply to this expression:
In setting up patterns and transformation rules, there is often a choice of where to put /; conditions. For example, you can put a /; condition on the righthand side of a rule in the form lhs:>rhs/;condition, or you can put it on the lefthand side in the form lhs/;condition->rhs. You may also be able to insert the condition inside the expression lhs. The only constraint is that all the names of patterns that you use in a particular condition must appear in the pattern to which the condition is attached. If this is not the case, then some of the names needed to evaluate the condition may not yet have been "bound" in the patternmatching process. If this happens, then the Wolfram Language uses the global values for the corresponding variables, rather than the values determined by pattern matching.
Thus, for example, the condition in f[x_,y_]/;(x+y<2) will use values for x and y that are found by matching f[x_,y_], but the condition in f[x_/;x+y<2,y_] will use the global value for y, rather than the one found by matching the pattern.
As long as you make sure that the appropriate names are defined, it is usually most efficient to put /; conditions on the smallest possible parts of patterns. The reason for this is that the Wolfram Language matches pieces of patterns sequentially, and the sooner it finds a /; condition which fails, the sooner it can reject a match.
Putting the /; condition around the x_ is slightly more efficient than putting it around the whole pattern:
You need to put parentheses around the /; piece in a case like this:
It is common to use /; to set up patterns and transformation rules that apply only to expressions with certain properties. There is a collection of functions built into the Wolfram Language for testing the properties of expressions. It is a convention that functions of this kind have names that end with the letter Q, indicating that they "ask a question".
 IntegerQ[expr] integer EvenQ[expr] even number OddQ[expr] odd number PrimeQ[expr] prime number NumberQ[expr] explicit number of any kind NumericQ[expr] numeric quantity PolynomialQ[expr,{x1,x2,…}] polynomial in x1, x2, … VectorQ[expr] a list representing a vector MatrixQ[expr] a list of lists representing a matrix VectorQ[expr,NumericQ] , MatrixQ[expr,NumericQ] vectors and matrices where all elements are numeric VectorQ[expr,test] , MatrixQ[expr,test] vectors and matrices for which the function test yields True on every element ArrayQ[expr,d] full array with depth matching d
Some functions for testing mathematical properties of expressions.
The rule applies to all elements of the list that are numbers:
This definition applies only to vectors of integers:
The definition is now used only in the first case:
An important feature of all the Wolfram Language propertytesting functions whose names end in Q is that they always return False if they cannot determine whether the expression you give has a particular property.
4561 is an integer, so this returns True:
This returns False, since x is not known to be an integer:
Functions like IntegerQ[x] test whether x is explicitly an integer. With assertions like xIntegers you can use Refine, Simplify, and related functions to make inferences about symbolic variables x.
 SameQ[x,y] or x===y x and y are identical UnsameQ[x,y] or x=!=y x and y are not identical OrderedQ[{a,b,…}] a, b, … are in standard order MemberQ[expr,form] form matches an element of expr FreeQ[expr,form] form matches nothing in expr MatchQ[expr,form] expr matches the pattern form ValueQ[expr] a value has been defined for expr AtomQ[expr] expr has no subexpressions
Some functions for testing structural properties of expressions.
With ==, the equation remains in symbolic form; === yields False unless the expressions are manifestly equal:
The expression n is not a member of the list {x,x^n}:
However, {x,x^n} is not completely free of n:
You can use FreeQ to define a "linearity" rule for h:
Terms free of x are pulled out of each h:
 pattern?test a pattern that matches an expression only if test yields True when applied to the expression
Another way to constrain patterns.
The construction pattern/;condition allows you to evaluate a condition involving pattern names to determine whether there is a match. The construction pattern?test instead applies a function test to the whole expression matched by pattern to determine whether there is a match. Using ? instead of /; sometimes leads to more succinct definitions.
With this definition, matches for x_ are tested with the function NumberQ:
The definition applies only when p has a numerical argument:
Here is a more complicated definition. Do not forget the parentheses around the pure function:
The definition applies only in certain cases:
 Except[c] a pattern that matches any expression except c Except[c,patt] a pattern that matches patt but not c
Patterns with exceptions.
This gives all elements except 0:
Except can take a pattern as an argument:
This picks out integers that are not 0:
Except[c] is in a sense a very general pattern: it matches anything except c. In many situations you instead need to use Except[c,patt], which restricts to expressions matching patt that do not match c.
Patterns Involving Alternatives
 patt1|patt2|… a pattern that can have one of several forms
Specifying patterns that involve alternatives.
This defines h to give p when its argument is either a or b:
The first two cases give p:
You can also use alternatives in transformation rules:
Here is another example, in which one of the alternatives is itself a pattern:
When you use alternatives in patterns, you should make sure that the same set of names appear in each alternative. When a pattern like (a[x_]|b[x_]) matches an expression, there will always be a definite expression that corresponds to the object x. If you try to match a pattern like (a[x_]|b[y_]), then there still will be definite expressions corresponding to x and y, but the unmatched one will be Sequence[ ].
Here f is used to name the head, which can be either a or b:
Pattern Sequences
In some cases you may need to specify pattern sequences that are more intricate than things like x__ or x..; for such situations you can use PatternSequence[p1,p2,].
 PatternSequence[p1,p2,…] a sequence of arguments matching p1,p2,…
Pattern sequences.
This defines a function with two or more arguments, grouping the first two:
Evaluate the function for different numbers of arguments:
This picks out the longest run of the sequence a,b in the list:
The empty sequence, , is sometimes useful to specify an optional argument.
This picks out expressions with exactly one or two arguments:
Flat and Orderless Functions
Although the Wolfram Language matches patterns in a purely structural fashion, its notion of structural equivalence is quite sophisticated. In particular, it takes account of properties such as commutativity and associativity in functions like Plus and Times.
This means, for example, that the Wolfram Language considers the expressions x+y and y+x equivalent for the purposes of pattern matching. As a result, a pattern like g[x_+y_,x_] can match not only g[a+b,a], but also g[a+b,b].
This expression has exactly the same form as the pattern:
In this case, the expression has to be put in the form g[b+a,b] in order to have the same structure as the pattern:
Whenever the Wolfram Language encounters an orderless or commutative function such as Plus or Times in a pattern, it effectively tests all the possible orders of arguments to try and find a match. Sometimes, there may be several orderings that lead to matches. In such cases, the Wolfram Language just uses the first ordering it finds. For example, h[x_+y_,x_+z_] could match h[a+b,a+b] with xa, yb, zb or with xb, ya, za. The Wolfram Language tries the case xa, yb, zb first, and so uses this match.
This can match either with xa or with xb. The Wolfram Language tries xa first, and so uses this match:
ReplaceList shows both possible matches:
As discussed in "Attributes", the Wolfram Language allows you to assign certain attributes to functions, which specify how those functions should be treated in evaluation and pattern matching. Functions can for example be assigned the attribute Orderless, which specifies that they should be treated as commutative or symmetric, and allows their arguments to be rearranged in trying to match patterns.
 Orderless commutative function: f[b,c,a], etc., are equivalent to f[a,b,c] Flat associative function: f[f[a],b], etc., are equivalent to f[a,b] OneIdentity f[f[a]] , etc., are equivalent to a Attributes[f] give the attributes assigned to f SetAttributes[f,attr] add attr to the attributes of f ClearAttributes[f,attr] remove attr from the attributes of f
Some attributes that can be assigned to functions.
Plus has attributes Orderless and Flat, as well as others:
This defines q to be an orderless or commutative function:
The arguments of q are automatically sorted into order:
The Wolfram Language rearranges the arguments of q functions to find a match:
In addition to being orderless, functions like Plus and Times also have the property of being flat or associative. This means that you can effectively "parenthesize" their arguments in any way, so that, for example, x+(y+z) is equivalent to x+y+z, and so on.
The Wolfram Language takes account of flatness in matching patterns. As a result, a pattern like g[x_+y_] can match g[a+b+c], with xa and y(b+c).
The argument of g is written as a+(b+c) so as to match the pattern:
If there are no other constraints, the Wolfram Language will match x_ to the first element of the sum:
This shows all the possible matches:
Here x_ is forced to match b+d:
The Wolfram Language can usually apply a transformation rule to a function only if the pattern in the rule covers all the arguments in the function. However, if you have a flat function, it is sometimes possible to apply transformation rules even though not all the arguments are covered.
This rule applies even though it does not cover all the terms in the sum:
This combines two of the terms in the sum:
Functions like Plus and Times are both flat and orderless. There are, however, some functions, such as Dot, which are flat, but not orderless.
Both x_ and y_ can match any sequence of terms in the dot product:
This assigns the attribute Flat to the function r:
The Wolfram Language writes the expression in the form r[r[a,b],r[a,b]] to match the pattern:
The Wolfram Language writes this expression in the form r[a,r[r[b],r[b]],c] to match the pattern:
In an ordinary function that is not flat, a pattern such as x_ matches an individual argument of the function. But in a function f[a,b,c,] that is flat, x_ can match objects such as f[b,c] which effectively correspond to a sequence of arguments. However, in the case where x_ matches a single argument in a flat function, the question comes up as to whether the object it matches is really just the argument a itself, or f[a]. The Wolfram Language chooses the former possibility if the function carries the attribute OneIdentity, otherwise it will first attempt to use the latter but fall back on the former.
This adds the attribute OneIdentity to the function r:
Now x_ matches individual arguments, without r wrapped around them:
The functions Plus, Times, and Dot all have the attribute OneIdentity, reflecting the fact that Plus[x] is equivalent to x, and so on. However, in representing mathematical objects, it is often convenient to deal with flat functions that do not have the attribute OneIdentity.
Functions with Variable Numbers of Arguments
Unless f is a flat function, a pattern like f[x_,y_] stands only for instances of the function with exactly two arguments. Sometimes you need to set up patterns that can allow any number of arguments.
You can do this using multiple blanks. While a single blank such as x_ stands for a single Wolfram Language expression, a double blank such as x__ stands for a sequence of one or more expressions.
Here x__ stands for the sequence of expressions (a,b,c):
Here is a more complicated definition, which picks out pairs of duplicated elements in h:
The definition is applied twice, picking out the two paired elements:
"Double blanks" __ stand for sequences of one or more expressions. "Triple blanks" ___ stand for sequences of zero or more expressions. You should be very careful whenever you use triple blank patterns. It is easy to make a mistake that can lead to an infinite loop. For example, if you define p[x_,y___]:=p[x] q[y], then typing in p[a] will lead to an infinite loop, with y repeatedly matching a sequence with zero elements. Unless you are sure you want to include the case of zero elements, you should always use double blanks rather than triple blanks.
 _ any single expression x_ any single expression, to be named x __ any sequence of one or more expressions x__ sequence named x x__h sequence of expressions, all of whose heads are h ___ any sequence of zero or more expressions x___ sequence of zero or more expressions named x x___h sequence of zero or more expressions, all of whose heads are h
More kinds of pattern objects.
Notice that with flat functions such as Plus and Times, the Wolfram Language automatically handles variable numbers of arguments, so you do not explicitly need to use double or triple blanks, as discussed in "Flat and Orderless Functions".
When you use multiple blanks, there are often several matches that are possible for a particular expression. By default, the Wolfram Language tries first those matches that assign the shortest sequences of arguments to the first multiple blanks that appear in the pattern. You can change this order by wrapping Longest or Shortest around parts of the pattern.
 Longest[p] match the longest sequence consistent with the pattern p Shortest[p] match the shortest sequence consistent with the pattern p
Controlling the order in which matches are tried.
This gives a list of all the matches that the Wolfram Language tries:
This forces the Wolfram Language to try the longest matches for x__ first:
Many kinds of enumeration can be done by using ReplaceList with various kinds of patterns:
This effectively enumerates all sublists with at least one element:
This tries the shortest matches for x__ first:
Optional and Default Arguments
Sometimes you may want to set up functions where certain arguments, if omitted, are given "default values". The pattern x_:v stands for an object that can be omitted, and if so, will be replaced by the default value v.
This defines a function j with a required argument x, and optional arguments y and z, with default values 1 and 2, respectively:
The default value of z is used here:
Now the default values of both y and z are used:
 x_:v an expression which, if omitted, is taken to have default value v x_h:v an expression with head h and default value v x_. an expression with a built‐in default value
Pattern objects with default values.
Some common Wolfram Language functions have builtin default values for their arguments. In such cases, you need not explicitly give the default value in x_:v, but instead you can use the more convenient notation x_. in which a builtin default value is assumed.
 x_+y_. default for y is 0 x_y_. default for y is 1 x_^y_. default for y is 1
Some patterns with optional pieces.
Here a matches the pattern x_+y_. with y taken to have the default value 0:
Because Plus is a flat function, a pattern such as x_+y_ can match a sum with any number of terms. This pattern cannot, however, match a single term such as a. However, the pattern x_+y_. contains an optional piece, and can match either an explicit sum of terms in which both x_ and y_ appear, or a single term x_, with y taken to be 0.
Using constructs such as x_., you can easily construct single patterns that match expressions with several different structures. This is particularly useful when you want to match several mathematically equal forms that do not have the same structure.
The pattern matches g[a^2], but not g[a+b]:
By giving a pattern in which the exponent is optional, you can match both cases:
The pattern a_.+b_.x_ matches any linear function of x_:
In this case, b 1:
Here b 1 and a 0:
Standard Wolfram Language functions such as Plus and Times have builtin default values for their arguments. You can also set up defaults for your own functions, as described in "Patterns".
Sometimes it is convenient not to assign a default value to an optional argument; such arguments can be specified with the help of .
 p|PatternSequence[] optional pattern p with no default value
Optional argument without a default value.
The pattern matches an optional second argument of 2, without a default value:
Setting Up Functions with Optional Arguments
When you define a complicated function, you will often want to let some of the arguments of the function be "optional". If you do not give those arguments explicitly, you want them to take on certain "default" values.
Builtin Wolfram Language functions use two basic methods for dealing with optional arguments. You can choose between the same two methods when you define your own functions in the Wolfram Language.
The first method is to have the meaning of each argument determined by its position, and then to allow one to drop arguments, replacing them by default values. Almost all builtin Wolfram Language functions that use this method drop arguments from the end. For example, the builtin function Flatten[list,n] allows you to drop the second argument, which is taken to have a default value of Infinity.
You can implement this kind of "positional" argument using _: patterns.
 f[x_,k_:kdef]:=value a typical definition for a function whose second argument is optional, with default value kdef
Defining a function with positional arguments.
This defines a function with an optional second argument. When the second argument is omitted, it is taken to have the default value Infinity:
Here is a function with two optional arguments:
The Wolfram Language assumes that arguments are dropped from the end. As a result m here gives the value of n1, while n2 has its default value of 2:
The second method that builtin Wolfram Language functions use for dealing with optional arguments is to give explicit names to the optional arguments, and then to allow their values to be given using transformation rules. This method is particularly convenient for functions like Plot which have a very large number of optional parameters, only a few of which usually need to be set in any particular instance.
The typical arrangement is that values for "named" optional arguments can be specified by including the appropriate transformation rules at the end of the arguments to a particular function. Thus, for example, the rule , which specifies the setting for the named optional argument Joined, could appear as ListPlot[list,Joined->True].
When you set up named optional arguments for a function f, it is conventional to store the default values of these arguments as a list of transformation rules assigned to Options[f].
 f[x_,OptionsPattern[]]:=value a typical definition for a function with zero or more named optional arguments OptionValue[name] the value of a named optional argument in the body of the function
Named arguments.
This sets up default values for two named optional arguments opt1 and opt2 in the function fn:
Here is the definition for a function fn which allows zero or more named optional arguments to be specified:
With no optional arguments specified, the default rule for opt2 is used:
If you explicitly give a rule for opt2, it will override the default rules stored in Options[fn]:
 FilterRules[opts,Options[name]] the rules in opts used as options by the function name FilterRules[opts,Except[Options[name]]] the rules in opts not used as options by the function name
Filtering options.
Sometimes when you write a function you will want to pass on options to functions that it calls.
Here is a simple function that solves a differential equation numerically and plots its solution:
With no options given, the default options for NDSolve and Plot are used:
This changes the method used by NDSolve and the color in the plot:
Repeated Patterns
 expr.. a pattern or other expression repeated one or more times expr... a pattern or other expression repeated zero or more times
Repeated patterns.
Multiple blanks such as x__ allow you to give patterns in which sequences of arbitrary expressions can occur. The Wolfram Language pattern repetition operators .. and ... allow you to construct patterns in which particular forms can be repeated any number of times. Thus, for example, f[a..] represents any expression of the form f[a], f[a,a], f[a,a,a], and so on.
The pattern f[a..] allows the argument a to be repeated any number of times:
This pattern allows any number of a arguments, followed by any number of b arguments:
Here each argument can be either a or b:
You can use .. and ... to represent repetitions of any pattern. If the pattern contains named parts, then each instance of these parts must be identical.
This defines a function whose argument must consist of a list of pairs:
The definition applies in this case:
With this definition, the second elements of all the pairs must be the same:
The definition applies in this case:
The pattern x.. can be extended to two arguments to control the number of repetitions more precisely.
 p.. or Repeated[p] a pattern or other expression repeated one or more times Repeated[p,max] a pattern repeated up to max times Repeated[p,{min,max}] a pattern repeated between min and max times Repeated[p,{n}] a pattern repeated exactly n times
Controlling the number of repetitions.
This finds from two to three repetitions of the argument a:
Verbatim Patterns
 Verbatim[expr] an expression that must be matched verbatim
Verbatim patterns.
Here the x_ in the rule matches any expression:
The Verbatim tells the Wolfram Language that only the exact expression x_ should be matched:
Patterns for Some Common Types of Expression
Using the objects described in "Introduction to Patterns", you can set up patterns for many kinds of expressions. In all cases, you must remember that the patterns must represent the structure of the expressions in the Wolfram Language internal form, as shown by FullForm.
Especially for some common kinds of expressions, the standard output format used by the Wolfram Language is not particularly close to the full internal form. But it is the internal form that you must use in setting up patterns.
 n_Integer an integer n x_Real an approximate real number x z_Complex a complex number z Complex[x_,y_] a complex number x+iy Complex[x_Integer,y_Integer] a complex number where both real and imaginary parts are integers (r_Rational|r_Integer) rational number or integer r Rational[n_,d_] a rational number (x_/;NumberQ[x]&&Im[x]==0) a real number of any kind (x_/;NumberQ[x]) a number of any kind
Some typical patterns for numbers.
Here are the full forms of some numbers:
The rule picks out each piece of the complex numbers:
The fact that these expressions have different full forms means that you cannot use x_+Iy_ to match a complex number:
The pattern here matches both ordinary integers, and complex numbers where both the real and imaginary parts are integers:
As discussed in "Symbolic Computation", the Wolfram Language puts all algebraic expressions into a standard form, in which they are written essentially as a sum of products of powers. In addition, ratios are converted into products of powers, with denominator terms having negative exponents, and differences are converted into sums with negated terms. To construct patterns for algebraic expressions, you must use this standard form. This form often differs from the way the Wolfram Language prints out the algebraic expressions. But in all cases, you can find the full internal form using FullForm[expr].
Here is a typical algebraic expression:
This is the full internal form of the expression:
This is what you get by applying a transformation rule to all powers in the expression:
 x_+y_ a sum of two or more terms x_+y_. a single term or a sum of terms n_Integerx_ an expression with an explicit integer multiplier a_.+b_.x_ a linear expression a+bx x_^n_ xn with n≠0,1 x_^n_. xn with n≠0 a_.+b_.x_+c_.x_^2 a quadratic expression with nonzero linear term
Some typical patterns for algebraic expressions.
This pattern picks out linear functions of x:
 x_List or x:{___} a list x_List/;VectorQ[x] a vector containing no sublists x_List/;VectorQ[x,NumberQ] a vector of numbers x:{___List} or x:{{___}...} a list of lists x_List/;MatrixQ[x] a matrix containing no sublists x_List/;MatrixQ[x,NumberQ] a matrix of numbers x:{{_,_}...} a list of pairs
Some typical patterns for lists.
This defines a function whose argument must be a list containing lists with either one or two elements:
The definition applies in the second and third cases:
An Example: Defining Your Own Integration Function
Now that we have introduced the basic features of patterns in the Wolfram Language, we can use them to give a more or less complete example. We will show how you could define your own simple integration function in the Wolfram Language.
From a mathematical point of view, the integration function is defined by a sequence of mathematical relations. By setting up transformation rules for patterns, you can implement these mathematical relations quite directly in the Wolfram Language.
 mathematical form Wolfram Language definition integrate[y_+z_,x_]:=integrate[y,x]+integrate[z,x] ( independent of ) integrate[c_y_,x_]:=c integrate[y,x]/;FreeQ[c,x] integrate[c_,x_]:=cx/;FreeQ[c,x] , integrate[x_^n_.,x_]:=x^(n+1)/(n+1)/;FreeQ[n,x]&&n!=-1 integrate[1/(a_.x_+b_.),x_]:=Log[ax+b]/a/;FreeQ[{a,b},x] integrate[Exp[a_.x_+b_.],x_]:=Exp[ax+b]/a/;FreeQ[{a,b},x]
Definitions for an integration function.
This implements the linearity relation for integrals: :
The associativity of Plus makes the linearity relation work with any number of terms in the sum:
This makes integrate pull out factors that are independent of the integration variable x:
The Wolfram Language tests each term in each product to see whether it satisfies the FreeQ condition, and so can be pulled out:
This gives the integral of a constant:
Now the constant term in the sum can be integrated:
This gives the standard formula for the integral of . By using the pattern x_^n_., rather than x_^n_, we include the case of :
Now this integral can be done completely:
Of course, the builtin integration function Integrate (with a capital I) could have done the integral anyway:
Here is the rule for integrating the reciprocal of a linear function. The pattern a_.x_+b_. stands for any linear function of x:
Here both a and b take on their default values:
Here is a more complicated case. The symbol a now matches 2p:
You can go on and add many more rules for integration. Here is a rule for integrating exponentials: