I'm looking for a way to search files where two word instances exist in the same file. I've been using the following to perform my searches up to this point:

find . -exec grep -l "FIND ME" {} \;

The problem I'm running into is that if there isn't exactly one space that between "FIND" and "ME", the search result does not yield the file. How do I adapt the former search string where both words "FIND" and "ME exist in a file as opposed to "FIND ME"?

I'm using AIX.

  • 1
    Do the words exist anywhere in the file, or are they always on the same line? – Sobrique Jul 21 '15 at 10:57
  • The intent was same line. – Chad Harrison Jun 28 '17 at 18:45
  • An alternative, if the words are on the same line is to use a regular expression with grep -E / egrep that describes all patterns you are interested in (and using + instead of ; if your find has support for +. – MattBianco Sep 22 '17 at 11:11

With GNU tools:

find . -type f  -exec grep -lZ FIND {} + | xargs -r0 grep -l ME

You can do standardly:

find . -type f -exec grep -q FIND {} \; -exec grep -l ME {} \;

But that would run two greps per file. To avoid running that many greps and still be portable while still allowing any character in file names, you could do:

convert_to_xargs() {
  sed "s/[[:blank:]\"\']/\\\\&/g" | awk '
      if (NR > 1) {
        printf "%s", line
        if (!index($0, "//")) printf "\\"
        print ""
      line = $0
    END { print line }'

find .//. -type f |
  convert_to_xargs |
  xargs grep -l FIND |
  convert_to_xargs |
  xargs grep -l ME

The idea being to convert the output of find into a format suitable for xargs (that expects a blank (SPC/TAB/NL, and the other blanks from your locale with some implementations of xargs) separated list of words where single, double quotes and backslashes can escape blanks and each other).

Generally you can't post-process the output of find -print, because it separates the file names with a newline character and doesn't escape the newline characters that are found in file names. For instance if we see:


We've got no way to know whether it's one file called b in a directory called a<NL>. or if it's the two files a and b.

By using .//., because // cannot appear otherwise in a file path as output by find (because there's no such thing as a directory with an empty name and / is not allowed in a file name), we know that if we see a line that contains //, then that's the first line of a new filename. So we can use that awk command to escape all newline characters but those that precede those lines.

If we take the example above, find would output in the first case (one file):


Which awk escapes to:


So that xargs sees it as one argument. And in the second case (two files):


Which awk would leave as is, so xargs sees two arguments.

  • This is better than my answer. – jordanm Mar 13 '13 at 18:52
  • This needs more upvotes – s g Jul 10 '15 at 22:35
  • Why not use find ... -print0 and grep --null instead? – razzed Jun 28 '17 at 15:32
  • @razzed, not sure what you mean those. grep --null (aka -Z) is used in the first one but is a GNU extension. -print0 (another GNU extension) would not help here. – Stéphane Chazelas Jun 28 '17 at 15:56
  • Thanks. I would like to wrap your shell code into a script which takes the search directory as an argument from command line. I am not very sure what .//. means yet, and wondering how I can modify that to accept an argument from command line, say $1? – Tim Jun 2 '18 at 2:24

If the files are in a single directory and their name don't contain space, tab, newline, *, ? nor [ characters and don't start with - nor ., this will get a list of files containing ME, then narrow that down to the ones that also contain FIND.

grep -l FIND `grep -l ME *`
  • THIS needs more upvotes!! Far more elegant than the "accepted" answer. Worked for me. – roblogic Nov 7 '16 at 3:28

With awk you could also run:

find . -type f  -exec awk 'BEGIN{cx=0; cy=0}; /FIND/{cx++}
/ME/{cy++}; END{if (cx > 0 && cy > 0) print FILENAME}' {} \;

It uses cx and cy to count for lines matching FIND and respectively ME. In the END block, if both counters > 0, it prints the FILENAME.
This would be faster/more efficient with gnu awk:

find . -type f  -exec gawk 'BEGINFILE{cx=0; cy=0}; /FIND/{cx++}
/ME/{cy++}; ENDFILE{if (cx > 0 && cy > 0) print FILENAME}' {} +

Or use egrep -e or grep -E like this:

find . -type f -exec egrep -le '(ME.*FIND|FIND.*ME)' {} \;


find . -type f -exec grep -lE '(ME.*FIND|FIND.*ME)' {} +

The + makes find (if supported) add multiple file(path)names as arguments to the command being -execed. This saves processes and is a lot quicker than \; which invokes the command once for each file found.

-type f matches only files, to avoid grepping on a directory.

'(ME.*FIND|FIND.*ME)' is a regular expression matching any line containing "ME" followed by "FIND" or "FIND" followed by "ME". (single quotes to prevent the shell from interpreting special characters).

Add a -i to the grep command to make it case-insensitive.

To only match lines where "FIND" comes before "ME", use 'FIND.*ME'.

To require spaces (1 or more, but nothing else) between the words: 'FIND +ME'

To allow spaces (0 or more, but nothing else) between the words: 'FIND *ME'

The combinations are endless with regular expressions, and provided you are interested in matching only on a row-at-a-time basis, egrep is very powerful.

  • Do most greps not support "-r"? That would eliminate the "find", but there might be sockets or other non-plain files in the tree being searched. – stolenmoment Jun 11 '18 at 10:28
  • OP uses AIX and had find in the question. – MattBianco Jun 12 '18 at 11:05

Looking at the accepted answer, it seems more complex than it needs to be. GNU versions of find and grep and xargs support NULL-terminated strings. It's as simple as:

find . -type f -print0 | xargs -0 grep -l --null FIND | xargs -0 grep -l ME

You can modify your find command to filter to the files you wish, and it works with filenames containing any character; without the added complexity of sed parsing. If you wanted to further process the files, add another --null to the last grep

find . -type f -print0 | xargs -0 grep -l --null FIND | xargs -0 grep -l --null ME | xargs -0 echo

And, as a function:

find_strings() {
    find . -type f -print0 | xargs -0 grep -l --null "$1" | xargs -0 grep -l "$2"

Obviously, use the accepted answer if you are not running GNU versions of these tools.

  • 1
    --null, --print0, -0 are all GNU extensions. Though some of them are found in other implementations nowadays, they're still not portable and not in the POSIX or Unix standard. – Stéphane Chazelas Jun 28 '17 at 15:58

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