The grep command searches the given input FILEs for lines containing a match or a text string.

grep command syntax

The syntax is:

grep -options "text string to search” directory-path


grep [option] "text string to search” directory-path


grep -r "text string to search” directory-path


grep -r -H "text string to search” directory-path


egrep -R "word-1|word-2” directory-path


egrep -w -R "word-1|word-2” directory-path


Search only certain file types. For example only php files:
$ grep -r --include=*.php "search string" /path/to/dir

Task: Search all subdirectories recursively

You can search for a text string all files under each directory, recursively with -r option:
$ grep -r "redeem reward" /home/tom/
$ grep -R "redeem reward" /home/tom/

Task: Only display filenames

By default, the grep command prints the matching lines. You can pass -H option to print the filename for each match:
$ grep -H -r "redeem reward" /home/tom
Sample outputs:

filename.txt: redeem reward
foobar.txt: redeem reward

To just display the filename use the cut command as follows:
$ grep -H -R vivek /etc/* | cut -d: -f1
Sample outputs:


Task: Suppress file names

The grep command shows output on a separate line, and it is preceded by the name of the file in which it was found in the case of multiple files. You can pass the -h option to suppress inclusion of the file names in the output:
$ grep -h -R 'main()' ~/projects/*.c

Task: Display only words

You can select only those lines containing matches that form whole words using the -w option. In this example, search for word 'getMyData()' only in ~/projects/ dirctory:
$ grep -w -R 'getMyData()' ~/projects/

Task: Search for two or more words

Use the egrep command as follows:
$ egrep -w -R 'word1|word2' ~/projects/

Task: Hide warning spam

grep command generate error message as follows due to permission and other issues:

No such file or directory
No such device or address
Permission denied

To hide all errors or warning message spam generated by the grep command, append 2>/dev/null to grep command. This will send and hide unwanted output to /dev/null device:
$ grep -w -R 'getMyData()' ~/projects/ 2>/dev/null

Task: Display matched text in color

Pass the --color option to the grep command display matched text/words in color on the terminal:

grep --color 'word' file
grep --color -R 'word' /path/to/dir
grep --color -R "" /etc/
grep --color -R -h "" /etc/
grep --color -R -h "" /etc/ 2>/dev/null

Sample outputs:

Task: Ignore case

Our final example ignore case distinctions in both the search PATTERN and the input files:
grep -i -R 'word' /path/to/dir
grep -i -r 'income tax' ~/accounting/

Example: grep -i 'hello world' menu.h main.c Pattern selection and interpretation: -E, --extended-regexp PATTERN is an extended regular expression -F, --fixed-strings PATTERN is a set of newline-separated strings -G, --basic-regexp PATTERN is a basic regular expression (default) -P, --perl-regexp PATTERN is a Perl regular expression -e, --regexp=PATTERN use PATTERN for matching -f, --file=FILE obtain PATTERN from FILE -i, --ignore-case ignore case distinctions -w, --word-regexp force PATTERN to match only whole words -x, --line-regexp force PATTERN to match only whole lines -z, --null-data a data line ends in 0 byte, not newline Miscellaneous: -s, --no-messages suppress error messages -v, --invert-match select non-matching lines -V, --version display version information and exit --help display this help text and exit Output control: -m, --max-count=NUM stop after NUM selected lines -b, --byte-offset print the byte offset with output lines -n, --line-number print line number with output lines --line-buffered flush output on every line -H, --with-filename print file name with output lines -h, --no-filename suppress the file name prefix on output --label=LABEL use LABEL as the standard input file name prefix -o, --only-matching show only the part of a line matching PATTERN -q, --quiet, --silent suppress all normal output --binary-files=TYPE assume that binary files are TYPE; TYPE is 'binary', 'text', or 'without-match' -a, --text equivalent to --binary-files=text -I equivalent to --binary-files=without-match -d, --directories=ACTION how to handle directories; ACTION is 'read', 'recurse', or 'skip' -D, --devices=ACTION how to handle devices, FIFOs and sockets; ACTION is 'read' or 'skip' -r, --recursive like --directories=recurse -R, --dereference-recursive likewise, but follow all symlinks --include=FILE_PATTERN search only files that match FILE_PATTERN --exclude=FILE_PATTERN skip files and directories matching FILE_PATTERN --exclude-from=FILE skip files matching any file pattern from FILE --exclude-dir=PATTERN directories that match PATTERN will be skipped. -L, --files-without-match print only names of FILEs with no selected lines -l, --files-with-matches print only names of FILEs with selected lines -c, --count print only a count of selected lines per FILE -T, --initial-tab make tabs line up (if needed) -Z, --null print 0 byte after FILE name