This chapter assumes you are familiar with patterns. If not please read about patterns before.


This chapter describes a full set of possible syntax components you can use in your patterns.

Small samples

Just to refresh our experience let's look at samples of some patterns before the details:

(hi|hello) * - matches with phrases like “Hello there” or “Hi!”

* (weather|forecast) [$Date] * - matches with “Tell me a forecast for tomorrow” or “What is the weather”.

* remind* [me] { [[to] $Text] [$Date] [$Time] } - “Please remind me to call mom next friday at 5 pm”, “Create a reminder”, “Remind me something” or “Could you please remind this in five minutes”

General rules

  • all patterns are case insensitive
  • you do not have to define the punctuation in the pattern
  • each open bracket should be followed by enclosing one
  • you can include one pair of brackets into another without limitations
  • you cannot use a star symbol * in the middle of word

Custom entities

Note that you can also use custom entities instead of patterns if you have a deal with big data (like all cities in the world) or if your need to change pattern's content without Botscript changing.


The most simple component you can use in your patterns. The user's input will be matched only in case of full equality with such pattern.

whoa - matches only “Whoa” or “whoa!” strings.

garden of madness - matches only this string.


A star symbol * (named wildcard) could be used to define a possible set of undetermined words:

hi * - matches with both of “Hi” and “Hi how are you?” (but not “Say hi”).

* weather * - matches with all strings which have at least a word “weather” in some place.

Flexy words

You can use wildcards before the first letter of word or after the last one (or both) to make such word flexible.

apple* - matches both “Apple” and “Apples” words (and even “applesssss”).

*determine* - matches “Determine”, “Determines” or “Undetermined”.


Use round brackets with | delimiter to define possible constructions of words in some place of pattern:

* (weather|forecast) - matches “Tell me a weather”, “What is the forecast” or simply “Weather”. But not a “Weather forecast”.

Note that you can insert one pair of brackets into another without any limits:

( (one|1) | (two|2) ) - matches with “one”, “1”, “two” and “2”.


If some part of phrase is not required to be present in the user's phrase, use square brackets to make it optional:

be [or not to be] - matches both “Be” and “Be or not to be”.

Of course you can enclose one pair of brackets into another:

remind [[to] do] - matches “Remind”, “Remind to do” and “Remind do”.

Optional alternatives

Of course you can use something like [(one|two|three)] to define alternative which is optional. But you can also omit round brackets in such case: [one|two|three] to save some piece of paper.


If some words could go in undefined order, use curly brackets:

{ you love me } - matches “You love me”, “Me love you”, “Love you me”, “You me love”… Oh there are too many variants so let's go further.

Pattern references

If you need to include one pattern into another (to reuse some custom pattern), use symbol $ before the name of included pattern:

<pattern name="MyCustomPattern" value="(one|two|three)"/>
<input pattern="* (want|wanna) $MyCustomPattern apple*"/>

This also allows you to fetch a part of user's phrase which is corresponding to this custom pattern. In the REST API response on the “I want two apples” request you will se something like this:

  "vars" : [ { "name" : "MyCustomPattern", "text" : "two" } ]

  Note that Zenbot will create a named variable for each custom pattern after matching.

Zenbot also provides a set of common patterns you can use in your Botscrips.


Often you may need to have deal with language independent representation of cutom pattern instead of the matched text. To map the custom pattern on some language independed value use please a symbol : after pattern expression between the value:

<pattern name="MyCustomPattern" value="( one:1 | two:2 | three:3 )"/>
<input pattern="* (want|wanna) $MyCustomPattern apple*">
  <output value="Ok, I will bring you $MyCustomPattern apples soon."/>

As a result of matching the request like “I wanna three apples” the bot will respond with text “Ok, I will bring you 3 apples soon.”

The REST API response will look like this:

  "vars" : [ { "name" : "MyCustomPattern", "text" : "three", "value" : 3  } ]

As you can see, Zenbot replaced placeholder with mapped value instead of text “three”, because we have defined mapping in our pattern MyCustomPattern.

Note that you have to enclose multiple words in a round brackets to map all of them on some value:

<pattern name="MyCustomPattern" value="( (1|1st|one|first):1 | (2|2nd|two|second):2 )"/>

  Also note that pattern mapping works only for custom patterns. It doesn't work for input patterns.

There is one more limitation here - the value you map the pattern to must not contain punctuation symbols, pattern syntax's special symbols and whitespaces.


If you have to use custom pattern with the same name multiple times, you have to distinguish them somehow to reference them further somehow.

To solve this use please :: symbol between an alias and regular pattern's name:

<input pattern="how much is $N1::Number and $N2::Number">
  <var name="Result" value="$N1 * $N2"/>
  <output value="$N1 and $N2 will be $Result"/>

There are two numbers in the example pattern above. Thus using :: we can easily reference each other without messing it up.


If you have some part of your pattern which can be present multiple times, you can use repeat:

<input pattern="repeat($Number)">
  <var name="MyNumbers" value='join($Number, " ")'/>
  <output value="$MyNumbers"/>

This simple script will return a text output “1 22 3” on the user's “One twenty two three”.

  Note that Number variable will contain array of integers in such case. But if user says only "one", Number will contain a regular integer.

In the case of repeat the repeated part must be present at least once in the text input to be matched. To make it fully optional just enclose it in the square brackets:

[repeat($Number)] - matches 0 or more numbers.