groups - Linux


The groups command in Linux is used to display the group memberships of a specific user or the current user. It’s vital for system administrators and users to determine access permissions and to manage and verify user groups effectively.


The basic syntax of the groups command is:

groups [options] [username]
  • username: Optional; if not provided, groups shows the group memberships of the current logged-in user.


The groups command is straightforward with minimal options:

  • –help: Display a help message and exit.
  • –version: Output version information and exit.


  1. Display Current User’s Groups:
    Simply run groups without any arguments:

  2. Display Groups for a Specific User:
    To see the groups to which a specific user belongs, include the username:

    groups username
  3. Using Wildcards:
    To find the groups for multiple users whose usernames follow a certain pattern:

    for user in `getent passwd | awk -F: '/pattern/{print $1}'`; do echo "$user belongs to $(groups $user)"; done

Common Issues

  • Incorrect Username: If the username is incorrect or does not exist, groups will return an error stating no such user. Ensure the username is spelled correctly and exists on the system.
  • Permission Denied: Although rare for the groups command, running certain scripts with groups in environments with restricted permissions might lead to access issues. Ensure adequate permissions are in place.


Combining groups with other commands can facilitate robust scripts and command chains:

# List all users and their group memberships in a system
getent passwd | cut -d: -f1 | while read user; do echo -n "$user: "; groups $user; done
  • id: Displays user and group IDs. Useful for more detailed user information.
  • usermod: Modify a user’s group memberships.
  • groupadd: Adds a new user group.
  • getent: Get entries from administrative databases, including group information.

Visit the official GNU documentation for the groups command here: GNU Coreutils: Groups for more detailed insights and versatile usage scenarios.