I have written a script which should execute certain commands as another user and after execution is finished (success or failure) should logout immediately.

I have read that I can use -c of su to execute commands. So, I wrote a script like:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

su - user2 -c "echo 'hurray' && exit"

It executes the echo command but stays logged in as user2 doesn't logout. I even tried using logout instead of exit but it stays logged in. I need to execute script as user1 which invokes the su command and executes as user2 and then the control should return to user1 after completion.


Alright, I was to able logout automatically but this time some commands are not being executed. For eg:


su user2 -c 'echo 1'



And, then it logs out on its own.


su user2 -c 'bash some-script.sh'


bash: cannot set terminal process group (-1): Inappropriate ioctl for device
bash: no job control in this shell

So, whenever I try to run some script via -c of su, it displays the above mentioned error. I've tried many commands with -c option such as ls, which, bash --version, mkdir, rm, whoami etc. All these commands produced the correct output. But any command which tries to execute a script, it fails with the error.

su user2 -c 'bash --version'      # Works
su user2 -c 'bash some-script.sh' # Doesn't work

I cannot figure out why this is happening. And, so is the reason I'm unable to fix this error.

  • Do you have su aliased to anything? And what is user2's default shell? – JigglyNaga May 30 '16 at 8:08
  • @JigglyNaga No, it is not aliased to anything. Default shell is bash – Abhimanyu Saharan May 30 '16 at 16:10

The reason for this behaviour is documented in the manual page for recent versions of su:

-c, --command COMMAND

Specify a command that will be invoked by the shell using its -c.

The executed command will have no controlling terminal. This option cannot be used to execute interractive programs which need a controlling TTY.

(emphasis mine)

When you run basic commands such as ls, echo or bash --version, they simply print their output to the stdout stream without without needing a controlling terminal.

I suspect that either the way bash is being invoked (as an interactive shell) or some-script.sh contains commands which require a controlling terminal device so running 'bash some-script.sh' throws the cannot set terminal process group (-1): Inappropriate ioctl for device error.

Some explanation

A controlling terminal for a process is the terminal device from which the process was started. A controlling terminal can send signals to groups of process and is the mechanism by which job control works in Unix operating systems; job control allows processes in the process group to be run in foreground or the background.

The output of the ps command shows the controlling terminal for each process, e.g.,

$ ps

  PID TTY          TIME CMD
 3614 pts/5    00:00:00 bash
31628 pts/5    00:00:00 ps

Recent change in su

In the past, su -c did start a controlling terminal when not running an interactive shell. Running apt-get changelog login on my Ubuntu system shows that the removal of the controlling terminal was introduced in May 2012 as a security measure:

  • su: Fix possible tty hijacking by dropping the controlling terminal when executing a command (CVE-2005-4890). Closes: #628843
  • So, basically there is now way to execute bash script.sh commands via su? – Abhimanyu Saharan Jun 5 '16 at 16:18

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