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How to parse CSV using ANTLR in C#

How to parse CSV using ANTLR in C#

In this blog post , I will show you how to parse the CSV file using ANTLR in C#.

In computer-based language recognition, ANTLR, or ANother Tool for Language Recognition, is a parser generator that uses LL for parsing. ANTLR is the successor to the Purdue Compiler Construction Tool Set, first developed in 1989, and is under active development.

Antlr supports following things

  1. Tree construction
  2. Tree walking
  3. Error recovery
  4. Error handling
  5. Translation

How ANTLR Works?

On a high level, here’s what you do to parse something with ANTLR:

  1. Create lexer rules in your grammar
  2. Create parser rules that use a lexer output
  3. Use lexer and parser to generate source code for a target language like in our case Csharp.
  4. Use generated sources to convert some raw input into the structured form (AST)
  5. Do something with this structured data

Before going to coding make sure you have installed the following Visual Studio Code Extension

ANTLR4 grammar syntax support


Create a console application in .net core by running following command from the command prompt

dotnet new console


Add ANTLR NuGet package by running following command

dotnet add package Antlr4.Runtime.Standard --version 4.8.0


Create a new file CSV.g4 and add the following grammar

grammar CSV;
csvFile: hdr row+ ;
hdr : row ;

row : field (',' field)* '\r'? '\n' ;

    : TEXT
    | STRING

TEXT   : ~[,\n\r"]+ ;
STRING : '"' ('""'|~'"')* '"' ; // quote-quote is an escaped quote

If you save this file ANTLR extensions will generate following C# file in the current folder.

  • CSVBaseListener.cs
  • CSVBaseVisitor.cs
  • CSVLexer.cs
  • CSVParser.cs
  • CSVVisitor.cs

If you parse the following CSV file with the grammar, you will see parse tree shown as below



Now it’s time to parse the CSV data. To parse the CSV data, we will create a custom listener and store the parse result in the data structure.

Create a class MyCSVListener and inherits from the class CSVBaseListener and override the following three methods.

The methods what would interest are, for example where the parser enters and exits different contexts specified in the grammar.


using System.Collections.Generic;
using Antlr4.Runtime.Misc;

public class MyCSVListener : CSVBaseListener

    private List<string> _header;
    private List<string> _currentRow;
    private List<List<string>> result;

    public List<List<string>> Result { get => result; set => result = value; }

    public MyCSVListener()
    {        Result=new List<List<string>>();

    public override void EnterRow([NotNull] CSVParser.RowContext context)
        _currentRow = new List<string>();
    public override void ExitRow([NotNull] CSVParser.RowContext context)
        if (context.Parent.RuleIndex == CSVParser.RULE_hdr)
        var m = new List<string>();
        int i = 0;
        foreach (var row in _currentRow)


    public override void ExitHdr([NotNull] CSVParser.HdrContext context)
        _header = new List<string>();
    public override void ExitField([NotNull] CSVParser.FieldContext context)

Now it’s time to test the method. Open Program.cs and add the following code snippet. The code is self explanatory.

using System;
using System.IO;
using Antlr4.Runtime;
using Antlr4.Runtime.Tree;
using System.Linq;
using System.Linq.Expressions;
namespace AntlrCSVParser
    class Program
        static void Main(string[] args)
            var csv = File.ReadAllText("input.txt");
            AntlrInputStream inputStream = new AntlrInputStream(csv);
            CSVLexer lexer = new CSVLexer(inputStream);
            CommonTokenStream commonTokenStream = new CommonTokenStream(lexer);
            CSVParser parser = new CSVParser(commonTokenStream);
            // Walk it and attach our listener
            ParseTreeWalker walker = new ParseTreeWalker();
            MyCSVListener listener = new MyCSVListener();

            walker.Walk(listener, parser.csvFile());
            var data = listener.Result;
            foreach (var list in data)

                foreach (var row in list)
                    System.Console.Write(row + " ");




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