My Makefile:

all: ...(other rules) clean

    rm $(find . -type f -executable)

When I delete clean rule from the above Makefile everything works as expected. After adding, make (also make clean) command results in:

rm: missing operand
Try 'rm --help' for more information.
make: *** [Makefile:46: clean] Error 1

What causes problem here and how can I solve?

  • 3
    Is there a reason not to use find . -type f -executable -delete? Also note that $ introduces the expansion of a makefile variable.
    – Kusalananda
    Sep 19, 2021 at 10:14
  • @Kusalananda actually I'm not aware of -delete opt in find. Do you say that $ has a special meaning in Makefile and there is no workaround for this? Sep 19, 2021 at 10:21

1 Answer 1


You want to run the command

rm $(find . -type f -executable)

to let the shell do the command substitution. To do this you need to write

        rm $$(find . -type f -executable)

with the dollar doubled. If your version of find supports it, it would be better to use

        find . -type f -executable -delete

as it avoids problems with characters like spaces in the output of find if you have them in your filenames.

  • 1
    Note also that the variant with the command substitution is severely limited in what filenames it would safely work with. An executable file with a space in its name would be treated as two files, and a file simply called * would cause all files to be deleted.
    – Kusalananda
    Sep 19, 2021 at 11:03

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