I have read this and this, and found that my problem is different and more specific.

I understand the following points.

  • +x on the directory grants access to files inodes through this specific directory
  • meta information of a file, which is used by ls -l, is stored in its i-node, but file name does not belong to that

From the 2 points above, since ls without -l does not need to access the i-nodes of the files in the directory, it should successfully list the file names and return 0.

However, when I tried it on my machine, the file names are listed, but there were some warnings like permission denied, and the return code is 1.

b03705028@linux7 [~/test] chmod 500 permission/
b03705028@linux7 [~/test] ls --color=no permission/
b03705028@linux7 [~/test] chmod 400 permission/
b03705028@linux7 [~/test] ls --color=no permission/
ls: 無法存取 'permission/f1': 拒絕不符權限的操作
b03705028@linux7 [~/test] echo $0

The Chinese characters basically talk about permission denied

My unix distribution is Linux 4.17.11-arch1

  • Hi David, unfortunately I cannot reproduce your problem. Using bash rm -rf lala; mkdir lala; chmod 400 lala; command ls lala is successful for me. The command only makes sure that no alias ofls is used. Could you please extend your question with the exact commands you type in to show the problem? (i.e., make a minimal working demonstration of what you observe)
    – stefan
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:32
  • Hi stefan, I use echo $0 to verify that I'm using bash too. May I ask which Unix distribution are you using? I've updated the problem to include the commands I used.
    – David Chen
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:35
  • What happens if you run /bin/ls directly? It's very likely that you have an alias or function in your shell that's making it try to get file stats. The * at the end of f1 makes me think there's the -F flag Nov 6, 2018 at 11:42
  • @StephenHarris Yeah that's the reason. problem solved. you guys are amazing.
    – David Chen
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:46
  • Yes, I assume that your ls is an alias and uses the -F flag to classify the filles, see ls(1). This would try to access f1 in order to classify it and append an asterisk. Using ls --color=no only appends to the alias. Try command ls instead. I'm using ArchLinux, should not make a difference.
    – stefan
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:48

1 Answer 1


I suspect ls in your case is an alias to something like ls --color=auto; in that case, ls tries to find information about the files contained inside the directory to determine which colour to use.

ls --color=no

should list the directory without complaining.

If it still complains, then you may be using another option, like -F or --classify, that needs to access file metadata (-F/--classify looks at the file type, for example).

To be sure that you run ls without going through an alias, use either of

command ls



To remove an alias for ls, use

unalias ls
  • Thank you for the answer. I just tried ls --color=no, but the result is exactly the same. I also checked /etc/bash.bashrc and ~/.bashrc, and there are no such aliases. Am I missing something?
    – David Chen
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:11
  • @DavidChen What does type ls return?
    – Kusalananda
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:38
  • @Kusalananda ls is alias of「ls --color -F」 I guess -F here is the reason why I still get return code as 1 even using --clor=no?
    – David Chen
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:45
  • @DavidChen Yes, that option needs to access the filetype of each file.
    – Kusalananda
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:46
  • 2
    @DavidChen Not if you put it in your ~/.bashrc file.
    – Kusalananda
    Nov 6, 2018 at 12:25

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