May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
Home Switchboard Unix Administration Red Hat TCP/IP Networks Neoliberalism Toxic Managers
(slightly skeptical) Educational society promoting "Back to basics" movement against IT overcomplexity and  bastardization of classic Unix


News Books See also Recommended Links


Examples Regex
Shells Pipes AWK Perl grep find  
sort uniq Tips Admin Horror Stories Unix History Humor Etc

The external expr command evaluates and compares expressions. It is a legacy command as old version on Unix shell did not have capability to evaluate expression (which was a huge design mistake), unacceptable even in the word of 640 KB memory machines. The expr command can be used to perform many functions but it should be used as a last resort command. The modern ksh and bash shells provide much faster and easier ways of performing calculations and comparisons. It still has some value as built-in calculator that one can use from shell command line.

An expression is composed of operands and operators. The operands are strings or integers; the operators are special characters used to inform expr how to interpret and compare the operands.

You can use the expr command to perform arithmetic or string manipulation and making comparisons. It has been an old standby in the writing of shell scripts to perform numeric and string manipulation functions. With the arrival of the Korn shell and its many internal features, the expr command has lost ground in the number of uses it offers. The Korn shell's variable substitution and let command replaces many of the expr's functions. Although it can still be used to perform such needs, it is extremely slow when compared to the internal Korn shell commands.

Operands and operators must be separated by blanks. Characters having special meaning to the shell must be escaped using the backslash (\) or quoted by single or double quotes. The parenthesis used for regular expression must always be preceded by backslashes. Strings containing blanks must be quoted to be considered one argument. You may precede integers with a minus sign (-) to represent a negative number.

You must be careful in passing arguments to expr. It does not know the difference between operands and operators except by their values. Therefore, you may have to add a character to the operands for proper interpretation. For example,

     expr $A = $B

would cause a problem, because expr interprets the + signs as operators instead of operands. To rectify this problem you can add some valid character to the operands:

     expr $A = $B

general format:

     expr arg1 operator arg2 ...


The following list describes the arguments that may be passed to the expr command. The list is in decreasing precedence of the operators.

String Matching Operators

arg1 : arg2 Matching operator. Compares the characters in arg1 with the characters in arg2. Returns the number of characters in arg1 matched by characters in arg2. Arg1 should be a string and arg2 should be a regular expression recognized by the ed command, with the exception of the ^ character, because all expressions start at the beginning of arg2. The following examples illustrate the use of the matching operator:
  $ expr string : str # First 3 characters match
  $ expr string : ing # Last 3 match but comparison
  0 # must start at beginning of arg1
  $ expr string : strg # Arg2 must match arg1 in its
  0 # entirety
  $ expr string : '.*' # .* is a regular expression
  6 # that matches any number of
    # any characters
  $ expr string : '.*i' # .*i matches any set of
  4 # characters ending with i
  You may find times when you need to return the matching portion of the string instead of the number of matching characters. You can use the \(...\) notation to perform this function. For example:
  $ expr string : '\(.*\)' # Returns all chars in arg1
  $ expr string : '..\(..\)' # Skips first 2 chars of
  ri # arg1, returns next 2
  $ expr string : '\(...\)' # Returns first 3 chars of
  str # arg1
  $ expr string : '.*\(...\)' # Returns last 3 chars of
  ing # arg1
  $ expr string : '..\(.*\)..' Returns center of arg1
  ri # first and last 2 chars
    # removed
  $ expr string : '\(stx\)' # Returns nothing
  $ expr string : 'st\(.*\)' # Return all of arg1 after
  ring # skipping st

Integer Arithmetic Operators   The following operators perform integer arithmetic. The returned value of a division operation is truncated to the largest integer. The multiplication, division, and modulus functions have equal precedence. The addition and subtraction operators have equal precedence but are lower in precedence than the previous three arithmetic operators. The * for multiplication must be escaped with a \ (backslash) or quoted to avoid shell interpretation.

arg1 \* arg2 Displays the value of arg1 multiplied by arg2. For example,
  $ expr 80 \* 24
arg1 / arg2 Displays the integer value of arg1 divided by arg2. For example,
  $ expr 15 / 4
  Notice the result of 15 / 4 is 3.75 but the value is truncated to the next lower number.
arg1 % arg2 Displays the remainder (modulus) of arg1 divided by arg2. For instance,
  $ expr 15 % 4
1arg1 + arg2 Display the value of arg1 added to arg2. For example,
  $ NUM=0
  $ expr $NUM + 1
arg1 - arg2 Display the value of arg2 subtracted from arg1. For example,
  $ expr $NUM - 1

Comparison Operators   These operators are used to compare numbers or strings. A true condition displays a 1 and a false condition displays a 0. The < and > symbols must be escaped or quoted to prevent interpretation by the shell.

The return code from expr equals 0 if the expression is true. If the expression is false the return code is 1. Thus if expr displays a 0 the return code is 1. If a 1 is displayed the return code is 0.

arg1 = arg2 Displays a 1 if arg1 and arg2 are equal. For example,
  $ NUM=5  
  $ PREV=6  
  $ expr $NUM = $PREV # NUM and PREV are not equal so
  0 # 0 is displayed.
arg1 \> arg2 Displays a 1 if arg1 is greater than arg2.
  $ expr dog \> cat # Since d has a higher ASCII
  1 # value than c a 1 is displayed.
arg1 \>= arg2 Displays a 1 if arg1 is greater than or equal to arg2.
arg1 \< arg2 Displays a 1 if arg1 is less than arg2.
arg1 \<= arg2 Displays a 1 if arg1 is less than or equal to arg2.
arg1 !> arg2 Displays a 1 if arg1 is not equal to arg2.

Conditional Operators

arg1 \& arg2 Returns the value of arg1 if arg1 and arg2 are not 0 or NUL; otherwise, 0 is returned. Arg1 can be another expression. For instance,
  $ VAR="" # Set VAR to NUL
  $ PRT="" # Set PRT to NUL
  $ expr $VAR \& $PRT # Return 0, arg1 and arg2
  0 # are NUL
  $ VAR="hplj" # Set VAR to hplj printer
  $ PRT="hpij" # Set PRT to hpij printer
  $ expr $VAR \& $PRT # VAR is set, return its
  hplj # value
arg1 \| arg2 Returns the value of arg1 if it is not 0 or NUL; otherwise, the value of arg2 is returned. Arg1 may consist of another expression (arg1 operand arg2). The following example reveals the syntax and use of this operand.
  $ VAR="" # Set variable VAR to NUL
  $ expr $VAR \| undefined # If VAR is NUL return
  undefined # the undefined string

The following error messages may be returned by expr:

The following exit statuses are returned by expr:


     while [ "$NUM" -le 10 ]
       echo $NUM
       NUM=`expr $NUM + 1`




Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy


War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes


Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Haterís Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D

Copyright © 1996-2021 by Softpanorama Society. was initially created as a service to the (now defunct) UN Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) without any remuneration. This document is an industrial compilation designed and created exclusively for educational use and is distributed under the Softpanorama Content License. Original materials copyright belong to respective owners. Quotes are made for educational purposes only in compliance with the fair use doctrine.

FAIR USE NOTICE This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to advance understanding of computer science, IT technology, economic, scientific, and social issues. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided by section 107 of the US Copyright Law according to which such material can be distributed without profit exclusively for research and educational purposes.

This is a Spartan WHYFF (We Help You For Free) site written by people for whom English is not a native language. Grammar and spelling errors should be expected. The site contain some broken links as it develops like a living tree...

You can use PayPal to to buy a cup of coffee for authors of this site


The statements, views and opinions presented on this web page are those of the author (or referenced source) and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of the Softpanorama society. We do not warrant the correctness of the information provided or its fitness for any purpose. The site uses AdSense so you need to be aware of Google privacy policy. You you do not want to be tracked by Google please disable Javascript for this site. This site is perfectly usable without Javascript.

Last modified: March 12, 2019