My problem is not simple passing parameters with spaces (I know how to achieve that), consider more complicated case:

function build() {
  make CC="$1" CFLAGS="$2" $* # $* is not correct here!

build gcc "XXX" VAR1="a b" VAR2="c=A d=B" LDFLAGS="-L/opt/lib -lm"

as equivalent to

make CC=gcc CFLAGS=XXX VAR1="a b" VAR2="c=A d=B" LDFLAGS="-L/opt/lib -lm"

I would like to achieve this one to work in shell (portable solutions please, no bashisms, etc). Any suggestions, recommendations?

  • And, why aren't you using "$@" which is designed exactly for this purpose?
    – MAP
    Jul 6, 2016 at 1:27
  • 1
    Forget about $* and remember "$@" instead. "$@" is very often useful whereas "$*" is very rarely useful and the unquoted forms are even rarer. Jul 6, 2016 at 23:09

1 Answer 1


There are two elements to a better solution:

  • shift
  • (more) quoting

Define the function using shift, like this:

function build {
  local cc="$1"
  local cflags="$2"
  shift 2
  make CC="$cc" CFLAGS="$cflags" "$@"

where we save the first two parameters to local variables, then shift the whole argument array by two; also, quote the "$@" expansion.

Then, call it with extra quoting, like this:

build gcc "XXX" 'VAR1="a b" VAR2="c=A d=B"' 'LDFLAGS="-L/opt/lib -lm"'

where the single quotes protect the extra arguments into the function; otherwise, the shell removes the quotes and you'd be left with VAR2=c=A d=B (unquoted) in the function.

  • 1
    He probably wants "$@", not "$*".
    – PSkocik
    Jul 5, 2016 at 17:44
  • Thanks, man! I mistakenly quoted arguments (yes, I played with "$@") like VAR2='"c=A d=B"'. I will check a bit later today and mark answer. Btw, shouldn't your example contain couple more single quotes?
    – 0andriy
    Jul 6, 2016 at 8:29
  • That's not fully correct due to inheritance of the double quotes to the later parameters, means that argument of VAR2 becomes "c=A d=B" instead of c=A d=B in the internals of Makefile, for now it still works when I dropped double quotes in the quoting, i.e. 'VAR2=c=A d=B'.
    – 0andriy
    Jul 6, 2016 at 12:09

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