The find man page says:

-execdir command {} + always returns true, while -execdir command {} ; returns true only if command returns 0.


EXIT STATUS find exits with status 0 if all files are processed successfully, greater than 0 if errors occur.

But if I test this, I get the opposite behaviour:

 $ find . -execdir false '{}' \; ; echo $?      

 $ find . -execdir false '{}' \+ ; echo $?      

Can someone explain this?

With -exec instead of -execdir I get the same results. I tried find (GNU findutils) 4.6.0 and 4.4.2.


This "return" isn't the exit code of find, but the return value of the -execdir action for the purposes of chaining multiple find actions together. If you try:

find . -execdir false '{}' \; -print

then -print never executes (that is, there is no output), while both of:

find . -execdir true '{}' \; -print
find . -execdir false '{}' + -print

print every path.

However, when using a + the exit code of find is set: it is non-zero if any invocation of the command exits non-zero, while for a ; the exit code is unaffected (directly) by the command results. This behaviour is required by POSIX for -exec, I suppose to indicate failures that would otherwise be undetectable:

If the primary expression is punctuated by a <plus-sign>, the primary shall always evaluate as true, and the pathnames for which the primary is evaluated shall be aggregated into sets. [...] If any invocation returns a non-zero value as exit status, the find utility shall return a non-zero exit status.

-exec ... \; is not specified as affecting the exit code, so find's default behaviour of exiting zero unless there was an error applies. An -exec ... \; command exiting non-zero is not regarded as an error, so in the absence of some other error the exit code will always be zero.

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  • Thanks! The exit status 0 if "All path operands were traversed successfully." of the POSIX is also more precise than the GNU man page ("0 if all files processed successfully"). – jofel Apr 26 '16 at 10:09

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