While trying to get last positional parameter set in /bin/dash , I've tried echo ${$#}. Surprisingly this did not result in an error, but into PID which is the same as $$ variable contents. Question, is why did that syntax work ? What is the syntax rule that shell applied here ?

Basically, what I did is

$ set 1 2 3 4 5
$ echo ${$#}
$ echo $$

Apparently, % character also get ignored in such construct

$ echo ${$%}

But * and @ result in bad substitution error:

$ echo ${$*}
sh: 10: Bad substitution
$ echo ${$@}
sh: 11: Bad substitution
  • 3
    What are you expecting ${$*} and ${$@} to produce? – Kusalananda Feb 13 at 7:34
  • 2
    @Kusalananda No expectations. I was trying other characters beside # and % and what behavior results from those. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 13 at 7:36
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    To actually do indirection in Dash, use eval, e.g. dash -c 'set 1 2 3 4 5; eval "echo \$$#"'. Source: Ubuntu Wiki – wjandrea Feb 13 at 20:09
  • 1
    @wjandrea Yep, already aware of that one. There's actually already a question about it: stackoverflow.com/questions/1853946/… I was trying to find a method by myself without reading the question first ( and I already knew for i; do true; done to get last item into $i ) but was looking for something more elegant. eval of course can have potential issues, thought to what extent - that's another topic. But yes, it's an option – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 13 at 20:18

This is $$ with an empty prefix removed:


Remove Smallest Prefix Pattern. The word shall be expanded to produce a pattern. The parameter expansion shall then result in parameter, with the smallest portion of the prefix matched by the pattern deleted. If present, word shall not begin with an unquoted #.

The same applies for % (suffix). @ and * are not parameter expansion modifiers, so they are errors. It would happen for $?, $-, or a hypothetical $= as well. ${$+} is an empty expansion.

  • I should have recognized parameter substitution immediately there. Good catch. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Feb 13 at 7:39

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