I have a bash script with the following:

#!/bin/bash -e

egrep "^username" /etc/passwd >/dev/null 
if[ $? -eq 0 ] 
  echo "doesn't exist" 

This script will not run without the -e. What does the -e do for this script? Also, what does the $? do in this context?

  • 1
    Odd. No -e in the man page (I really want to see an answer address this). $? contains the last exit code (that of the egrep process spawned above). – pst Jun 30 '11 at 19:46
  • 2
    @pst: -e is documented under set. – Greg Hewgill Jun 30 '11 at 19:50
  • You could simplify your script by doing this: if egrep -q "^username" /etc/passwd ; then echo "doesn't exist" ; fi – bollovan Jul 3 '11 at 10:17
  • 2
    You're missing a space between if and [. This script won't work with -e, because if grep doesn't find anything then under -e the script will terminate right there. Without -e, you've got the message backwards: a status ($?) of 0 means that grep did find the user. Note that this should be `grep '^username:', by the way (what if there's another user with a longer name?). – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jul 3 '11 at 19:27
  • 3
    Will #/bin/bash -e have the same effect as #/bin/bash on line #1 and set -e on line #2 ? – blong May 30 '14 at 3:32

Error exit. More flags

If there is an error it will exit right away.

The $? is the exit status of the past command. In Linux an exit status of 0 means that the command was successful. Any other status would mean an error occurred.

egrep "^username" /etc/passwd >/dev/null Would look for the username under the /etc/passwd file. If it finds it then the exit status $? will be equal to 0. If it doesn't find it the exit status will be something else (not 0), hence you will "echo doesn't exist".

  • In addition, you can make the script work correctly without the -e by replacing the first two lines with if egrep "^username" /etc/passwd >/dev/null. – RetroX Jun 30 '11 at 19:50
  • 1
    Why is no set required though? :-/ – pst Jun 30 '11 at 20:44
  • 1
    @pst: Because the -e is given to bash as a command-line argument. All options listed under set are also accepted by bash in its command line – note the first sentence in section Options of the manual page. – user1686 Jul 3 '11 at 18:40

All the bash command line switches are documented in man bash.

      -e      Exit  immediately  if a pipeline (which may consist of a
              single simple command),  a subshell command enclosed  in
              parentheses,  or one of the commands executed as part of
              a command list enclosed by  braces  (see  SHELL  GRAMMAR
              above) exits with a non-zero status.  The shell does not
              exit if the command that fails is part  of  the  command
              list  immediately  following  a  while or until keyword,
              part of the test  following  the  if  or  elif  reserved
              words,  part  of any command executed in a && or || list
              except the command following the final  &&  or  ||,  any
              command  in a pipeline but the last, or if the command's
              return value is being inverted with !.  A trap  on  ERR,
              if set, is executed before the shell exits.  This option
              applies to the shell environment and each subshell envi-
              ronment  separately  (see  COMMAND EXECUTION ENVIRONMENT
              above), and may cause subshells to exit before executing
              all the commands in the subshell.
  • 2
    Ahh. I looked for it in the man, but after finding -e in the file tests and no -e under the main arguments I gave up. Nice excerpt. Why is no set required though? :-/ – pst Jun 30 '11 at 20:43

Your script is incorrect, because

egrep "^username" /etc/passwd >/dev/null 
if[ $? -eq 0 ] 
  #echo "doesn't exist" # WRONG
  echo "the USER EXISTS"

exit status 0 - mean - everything is OK, in the case of grep mean "OK, found the string". exit status != 0 mean something is wrong, in the case of grep 1 mean, "not found", 2 mean "can't open input"...

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