grep - Linux


grep (global regular expression print) is a powerful command-line utility used in Unix-like operating systems to search for a specific pattern defined by regular expressions within one or multiple files. It prints the lines that match the given pattern. grep is widely used for text searching and analysis, log analysis, file filtering, and in programming tasks where text pattern recognition is needed.


The basic syntax of the grep command is:

  • PATTERN is the string or regular expression you want to search for.
  • FILE... represents one or more files to search within. If no file is specified, grep searches the standard input.


  • -i: Ignore case distinctions in both the PATTERN and the input files.
  • -v: Invert the match, i.e., display lines that do not match the pattern.
  • -c: Count the number of lines that match the pattern.
  • -n: Prefix each line of output with the 1-based line number within its input file.
  • -l (lowercase L): Print only the names of files with matching lines, once for each file.
  • -L: Print only the names of files that do not contain match lines.
  • -r or -R: Recursively search directories for matching lines.
  • -w: Match whole words only.
  • -e: Allows multiple patterns to be used.
  • -o: Show only the part of a matching line that matches the pattern.
  • –color=auto: Highlights matching text. It can make the matches easier to identify.


  1. Search for a word in a file:
    grep "example" filename.txt
  2. Case-insensitive search:
    grep -i "example" filename.txt
  3. Count occurrences:
    grep -c "example" filename.txt
  4. List file names with matches:
    grep -l "searchterm" *.txt
  5. Recursive search with line numbers:
    grep -rn "functionName" /path/to/directory/

Common Issues

  • Pattern not found: Make sure the pattern matches the exact content, considering case sensitivity unless the -i flag is used.
  • File or directory not accessible: Ensure you have the proper permissions to read all files or directories involved.
  • Complex patterns not working: For complex regex patterns, ensure they are correctly formed or try simplifying them for testing.


grep is often used in conjunction with other commands through piping (|). For example, to apply further processing with awk:

grep "pattern" file.txt | awk '{print $1}'

To store the results in a file:

grep "pattern" file.txt > output.txt
  • awk: A versatile programming language primarily focused on pattern scanning and processing.
  • sed: A stream editor for filtering and transforming text.
  • tr: A utility for translating or deleting characters.

Additional resources and official documentation can be found at GNU grep documentation.