I wrote the following command in order to match $a with $b, but when the value includes "-", then I get an error. How can I avoid that?

# a="-Xmx5324m"
# b="-Xmx5324m"
#  echo "$a"  | grep -Fxc "$b"
grep: conflicting matchers specified
  • 3
    Consider changing your command to grep -Fxc -- "$b" <<< "$a" to avoid the unnecessary pipe
    – h3rrmiller
    Aug 28, 2017 at 17:44
  • 8
    By the way, do you really want a regex match, or do you just want to test whether a string is equal to (or is a substring of) another string? In that case, the shell built-ins [[ ... ]] or case would be a better choice, since you avoid both the idiosyncrasies of echo and the child processes.
    – Uwe
    Aug 28, 2017 at 18:36
  • whether a string is equal this is my test
    – yael
    Aug 28, 2017 at 19:28
  • 2
  • Another alternative that you shouldn't use that nobody listed : it's possible to escape the dash inside a quoted string so it is understood by grep as a literal character rather than the start of an option, i.e. echo test-test | grep "\-test" will match rather than complain about an unknown -t flag.
    – Aaron
    Aug 29, 2017 at 12:21

2 Answers 2


Place -- before your pattern:

echo "$a"  | grep -Fxc -- "$b"

-- specifies end of command options for many commands/shell built-ins, after which the remaining arguments are treated as positional arguments.


Besides of @sebasth's great answer, you could tell that PATTERN with grep's -e option to use PATTERN as a pattern (here using the <<< zsh here-string operator instead of echo; see also printf '%s\n' "$a" for portability).

grep -Fxc -e "$b" <<<"$a"

Or all beside of other options.

grep -Fxce "$b" <<<"$a"

Since your goal is byte-to-byte string equality comparison use the [ command instead.

if [ "$a" = "$b" ]

Or if $a contains $b, using the [[...]] ksh construct:

if [[ $a == *"$b"* ]]

Or more portably in all Bourne-like shells:

case $a in
  *"$b"*) ...

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