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Both forms iterate through str, matching the pattern (which may be a Regexp or a String). For each match, a result is generated and either added to the result array or passed to the block. If the pattern contains no groups, each individual result consists of the matched string, $&. If the pattern contains groups, each individual result is itself an array containing one entry per group.
a = "cruel world"
a.scan(/\w+/)        #=> ["cruel", "world"]
a.scan(/.../)        #=> ["cru", "el ", "wor"]
a.scan(/(...)/)      #=> [["cru"], ["el "], ["wor"]]
a.scan(/(..)(..)/)   #=> [["cr", "ue"], ["l ", "wo"]]
And the block form:
a.scan(/\w+/) {|w| print "<<#{w}>> " }
print "\n"
a.scan(/(.)(.)/) {|x,y| print y, x }
print "\n"
produces:
<<cruel>> <<world>>
rceu lowlr
 
               static VALUE
rb_str_scan(VALUE str, VALUE pat)
{
    VALUE result;
    long start = 0;
    long last = -1, prev = 0;
    char *p = RSTRING_PTR(str); long len = RSTRING_LEN(str);

    pat = get_pat_quoted(pat, 1);
    mustnot_broken(str);
    if (!rb_block_given_p()) {
        VALUE ary = rb_ary_new();

        while (!NIL_P(result = scan_once(str, pat, &start, 0))) {
            last = prev;
            prev = start;
            rb_ary_push(ary, result);
        }
        if (last >= 0) rb_pat_search(pat, str, last, 1);
        else rb_backref_set(Qnil);
        return ary;
    }

    while (!NIL_P(result = scan_once(str, pat, &start, 1))) {
        last = prev;
        prev = start;
        rb_yield(result);
        str_mod_check(str, p, len);
    }
    if (last >= 0) rb_pat_search(pat, str, last, 1);
    return str;
}
            

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