What happens when the following command is executed? Explain why, and how to fix it:

$ echo ‘`date`’
  • 2
    Did you mean to use curly quotes? What behaviour are you expecting? – Stephen Kitt Apr 7 '17 at 16:38
  • 2
    Why don't you tell us what happened? You're the one who ran the command, after all. What did you see? What were you expecting to see instead? – terdon Apr 7 '17 at 16:55

I’m guessing you’re running

echo '`date`'

(note the straight single quotes) and expecting to see date’s output. The shell never expands strings inside single quotes; you should use double quotes instead:

echo "`date`"

or just drop them

echo `date`

All this is equivalent to


though, apart from the shell splitting and globbing (as pointed out by Stéphane Chazelas), which will collapse blanks by default.

  • Strictly speaking, echo `date` is not the same as date. The former means calling the split+glob operator on the output of date. With the default value of $IFS, that will squeeze sequences of blanks into one space. See also with export TZ='***0' on some systems. – Stéphane Chazelas Apr 7 '17 at 16:55

As posted, the outer quotes are Unicode U+2018 and U+2019 characters. These are NOT regular single quotes and have no special meaning to shell and are simply echoed:

$ echo ‘`date`’
‘Fri Apr 7 19:55:15 EEST 2017’

Inside these quotes are backticks for shell command substitution. The date command is executed and the captured output replaces the date string.

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