Are the redirections 3>&2 and 3<&2 different?

What are the differences?

Is it only that in 3>&2 should raise an error as 2 is not open for input?


{ seq 20 1<&2; } 2>/dev/null

{ seq 20 1>&2; } 2>/dev/null

EDIT: answer

Both the commands execute the same duplication of 1 and 2. The output of this:

$ strace -f -e trace=dup,dup2 -o o2 sh -c 'seq 20 1>&2'

is exactly equal (beside PID numbers) for both commands.

  • See also What does “sh a.sh <&0 >&0” mean? – Stéphane Chazelas Jul 25 '18 at 13:01
  • @StéphaneChazelas I already understood that <&0 affects stdin only and that >&0 affects stdout, but thanks anyway. – Isaac Jul 25 '18 at 13:12
  • Why the downvote? What is wrong in asking a question that has never been asked before? – Isaac Jul 25 '18 at 16:37
  • no idea. Not mine. – Stéphane Chazelas Jul 25 '18 at 16:44
  • No @StéphaneChazelas it was not directed to you, sorry for the noise. I just hope that the comment could be directed to the user down voting. In any case, please, you never mind, thanks. – Isaac Jul 25 '18 at 16:47

No, they're strictly equivalent, the shell ends up doing dup2(2, 3) for both 3>&2 and 3<&2. The fd 3 then ends up pointing to the same open file description as on fd 2. It has no influence on the mode/direction of that open file description. It is not possible to change the mode/direction of an open file description.

The x>&y and x<&y operators are only different when x is omitted. >&y is 1>&y (same as 1<&y) while <&y is 0<&y (same as 0>&y).

  • This is what I already mentioned: the final redirection creates a writable file descriptor. – schily Jul 25 '18 at 12:47

One redirects stderr for output and the other for input.

If you like to have stderr open for reading and writing, you could use:


If you log in, all three file descriptors are open for reading and writing.

This is done by first opening the tty and then calling dup() 2 times.

The commands

{ seq 20 1<&2; } 2>/dev/null


{ seq 20 1>&2; } 2>/dev/null

are equivalent because the final redirection creates a file descriptor that is open for writing.

If you call:

{ truss -o o seq 20 1<&2; } 2>/dev/null

you will see that the write call from seq succeeds, And BTW: the output from seq goes to /dev/null

  • What? You’re answering a question about non-standard behaviour? ;-) – Stephen Kitt Jul 25 '18 at 12:21
  • 1
    Well, <> is in the Bourne Shell since at least 35 years ;-) See POSIX 2.7.7 – schily Jul 25 '18 at 12:23
  • Re-read the question (it changed). Why both { seq 20 1<&2; } 2>/dev/null and { seq 20 1>&2; } 2>/dev/null seem to do the same ? – Isaac Jul 25 '18 at 12:38
  • 1
    There's no such thing as a 3<>&2 operator. The x>&y and x<&y only duplicate file descriptors (get a new fd to the same open file description), they have no influence on the mode of that open file description. – Stéphane Chazelas Jul 25 '18 at 12:49
  • 1
    <> was in Bourne shell from the start (not documented) but was initially broken. Fixed first in Solaris 2.6 (20 years ago) according to in-ulm.de/~mascheck/bourne – Stéphane Chazelas Jul 25 '18 at 13:06

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