I have two files with tab-separated values that look like this:


A    1
B    3
C    1
D    4


E    1
B    3
C    2
A    9

I would like to find rows between files 1 and 2 where the string in column 1 is the same, then get the corresponding values. The desired output is a single file that looks like this:

B    3    3
C    1    2
A    1    9

Can this be done with a Unix one-liner?

3 Answers 3


GNU coreutils includes the command join that does exactly what you want if line sorting in the result is irrelevant:

join <(sort file1) <(sort file2)

A 1 9
B 3 3
C 1 2

If you want the tabs back, do:

join <(sort file1) <(sort file2) | tr ' ' '\t'

A   1   9
B   3   3
C   1   2

Or use the t option to join.

(<() aka process substitution, requires ksh93 (where the feature originated in), bash or zsh)

  • Now the output is sorted alphabetically, instead of according to file2, but it was not clear whether that would be a problem.
    – Bernhard
    Oct 25, 2012 at 10:52
ire@localhost: sort -k1 file2 | join file1 -
A 1 9
B 3 3
C 1 2

If you want tabs in the output, then do

sort -k1 file2 | join -t "        " file1 -

where you can construct the tab inside the quotes by pressing CTRL-V <tab>.


If you don't want the output sorted but instead have the same order as file2, awk is a good tool to use:

awk '
    NR == FNR {val[$1]=$2; next} 
    $1 in val {print $1, val[$1], $2}
' file1 file2

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