I do not know how to write variables with sed

So, I want to do the following task using for loop:

sed -n '1,200p' big_file.txt  > 1to200.txt
sed -n '201,400p' big_file.txt  > 201to400.txt
sed -n '401,600p' big_file.txt  > 401to600.txt
sed -n '601,800p' big_file.txt  > 601to800.txt
sed -n '801,1000p' big_file.txt  > 801to1000.txt
sed -n '1001,1200p' big_file.txt  > 1001to1200.txt
sed -n '1201,1400p' big_file.txt  > 1201to1400.txt
sed -n '1401,1600p' big_file.txt  > 1401to1600.txt
sed -n '1601,1800p' big_file.txt  > 1601to1800.txt
sed -n '1801,2000p' big_file.txt  > 1801to2000.txt
sed -n '2001,2200p' big_file.txt  > 2001to2200.txt
sed -n '2201,2400p' big_file.txt  > 2201to2400.txt
sed -n '2401,2600p' big_file.txt  > 2401to2600.txt
sed -n '2601,2800p' big_file.txt  > 2601to2800.txt
sed -n '2801,3000p' big_file.txt  > 2801to3000.txt
sed -n '3001,3200p' big_file.txt  > 3001to3200.txt
sed -n '3201,3400p' big_file.txt  > 3201to3400.txt
sed -n '3401,3600p' big_file.txt  > 3401to3600.txt
sed -n '3601,3800p' big_file.txt  > 3601to3800.txt
sed -n '3801,4000p' big_file.txt  > 3801to4000.txt

What I have tried:

for ((i=1;i<=3801;i=$i+200))
    #echo $m,$n
    j=$j + 200
    sed -n '$i,$j p' big_file.txt  > $ito$j.txt 

Please help me in doing this. Please provide explanation too.

  • 1
    This looks like a job for split (or even awk) rather than sed – steeldriver Jun 1 '18 at 15:40
  • 1
    Shouldn't that be j=$(( $i + 200 ))? and > "${i}to${j}.txt" – Dani_l Jun 1 '18 at 15:41
  • 3
    split -l 200 big_file.txt and possibly format the suffixes to something usable. – Dani_l Jun 1 '18 at 15:47
  • 1
    @Dani_l, you should make that an answer. – glenn jackman Jun 1 '18 at 15:50
  • 1
    I removed the bash and regular-expression tags, as neither are involved here. – Jeff Schaller Jun 1 '18 at 16:14


In j=$j + 200, you need to explicitly invoke arithmetic expansion, i.e. j=$(( j + 200 )).

And in sed -n '$i,$j p' big_file.txt > $ito$j.txt, 1) you need to use double-quotes instead of single quotes in the argument to sed, since otherwise the $ is taken literally and the variables will not be expanded; 2) you need braces around the i, since $ito would be a valid variable expansion.

Also, in arithmetic contexts you don't need to (and probably shouldn't) use the $ in front of the variable name.

So, I'd rewrite that as:

for (( i = 1 ; i <= 3801 ; i = i + 200)); do
    j=$((j + 200))
    sed -n "$i,$j p" big_file.txt > "${i}to$j.txt"

Like others have commented, there's probably a better way to do that, since now you walk the file in full once for each piece you split to.

  • I accept this solution because my code resembles this. – Dipankar Nalui Jun 4 '18 at 11:00

I would do this with a single awk program, instead of calling sed N times

awk '
    BEGIN {incr = 200; i=1-incr; j=0}
    NR % incr == 1 {
        i += incr
        j += incr
        out = i "to" j ".txt"
    {print > out}
' big_file.txt

This should be quicker, as you only have to process the big file once, instead of 4000÷200=20 times.

  • Could you please explain this? – Dipankar Nalui Jun 4 '18 at 11:08
  • NR is the awk variable that holds the current record number (here, a record = a line). For lines 1, 201, 401, ..., we set "out" to hold the desired output file name, closing the previous output file. (Awk string concatenation is a bit odd looking, just put the component strings side by side, there's no special operator: out = i "to" j ".txt") Then, for every line, print the line to the output file. The BEGIN block initializes the variables. – glenn jackman Jun 4 '18 at 11:13

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