I want to find all files, who contains two lines: abc and def. For example,


This file should be caught by grep because it contains abc and def.

What should I do? I've tried grep -rE 'abc.*def' /dir/ but it doesn't work.


On GNU systems, this will do the job for two patterns if the relative order of your matches does not matter:

grep -rlZ abc /dir/ | xargs -r0 grep -l def

You can chain that if you have more patterns than two:

grep -rlZ abc /dir/ | xargs -r0 grep -lZ def | xargs -r0 grep -l xxx

or use find:

find /dir/ -type f -exec grep -q abc {} \; -exec grep -q def {} \; -print

This is not very efficient, and another tool than grep might be better for that task.


A much more simplified version of grep in the --null-data mode (-z) would be to use a greedy quantifier to match any number of new lines as

grep -ozP  'abc(.*\n.*){1,}def' file

Or use pcregrep (provided by the PCRE project) which by default uses the PCRE regex capabilities. The -M enables the multi-line match mode.

pcregrep -M 'abc(.*\n.*){1,}def' file
  • The first command gave me grep: exceeded PCRE's backtracking limit – Yves Jul 3 at 9:31

Just for the case you may have even more complex conditions, we can use Awk

awk 'BEGIN{RS="\0"} 
     /def/ && /abc/ {print FILENAME}' *


  • RS="\0" defines a register separator not present in the file (=slurp file) and
  • condition {print FILENAME} outputs files matching the condition

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