(using MacOSX and may convert this to a perl script). I'm fairly new to Linux/Unix commands, and my Google search has been unsuccessful.

I am creating a script to make it fast to search for a record of someone's training. The way I'm doing this is listing the individual's training records in one line (perhaps there's a better way?). When I use Grep to search for a specific name, position trained in, or date, it shows the entire line. I want to grep search for a specific string and show only the beginning of the line, IE: first 2 words (First name / last name.).

The Training.txt file looks similar to this:

Ivie, Shawn Cashier 5/24/2016 Storeroom 12/2/2016 Service-Desk 11/31/2016

Allen, Adam Cashier 5/10/2016 Storeroom 12/13/2016

Martinez, Jessica Cashier 5/20/2017 Storeroom 10/29/2016 Supervisor 1/23/2016

The command I use now is: grep "Cashier" Training.txt

which returns all 3 records, the entire line contents of all records.

I've tried: grep -E -o ".{0,0}Cashier.{0,5}" Training.txt

which returns (in this example, all 3 records) but showing zero characters before "Cashier" and 5 after.

Cashier 5/10

How can I incorporate a grep (or perhaps a Perl command) to search for say, "Supervisor" and only show the first 2 words (names)? Secondary: any ideas that may make this type of process easier? (Spreadsheet is just not useful in this case).

2 Answers 2


This is perfect for awk:

awk '/Supervisor/ { print $1, $2 }' /path/to/inputfile

You can even restrict the search to the third field so that you don't get a false positive for someone named "Supervisor Bob":

awk '$3 ~ /Supervisor/ { print $1, $2 }' /path/to/inputfile
  • However, it would still fail for de la Vallée Poussin, Charles-Jean Étienne Gustave Nicolas Le Vieux Supervisor, or even for Fotherington Thomas, Basil Cashier. Technically, dealing with names is a problem that is still open to this day. May 24, 2017 at 15:41
  • True, but that's what you get for using both spaces and commas as field delimiters. GIGO.
    – DopeGhoti
    May 24, 2017 at 15:42

You can use grep with the Perl mode on:

grep -oP '^(\S+,?\s+){2}(?=Cashier\s)'


Ivie, Shawn
Allen, Adam
Martinez, Jessica


  • In Perl mode, grep is looking for two fields (\S+) from the beginning of line.
  • And standing at the end of the whitespace of the 2nd field, if we are able to see a Cashier followed by a whitespace, we've found our match. Since, the Cashier string is as a lookaround, it won't be included in the match.
  • Trying your syntax, it's not working...missing something?
    – Ivus
    May 29, 2017 at 15:55
  • @Ivus MacOS X grep is not GNU. In that case, try using ggrep.
    – user218374
    May 29, 2017 at 20:12

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