groups - macOS


The groups command in macOS displays the group memberships for the specified user, or if no user is specified, for the current user. This command is useful in system administration, granting permissions, and managing user access to files and directories.


The basic syntax of the groups command is:

groups [option]... [username]...
  • username: Optional. Specifying a username will display the groups for that user. If omitted, it shows the groups of the current user.


The groups command is straightforward with minimal options:

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

These flags can be used to get basic information about the groups command itself.


  1. Default Usage:
    Display the groups for the current user:

  2. Specifying a User:
    Show the groups that the user ‘johndoe’ belongs to:

    groups johndoe
  3. Multiple Users:
    Display the groups for multiple users ‘alice’ and ‘bob’:

    groups alice bob

Common Issues

  • Invalid User: If you specify a username that doesn’t exist, the command will return an error. Ensure that the usernames are correctly spelled.
  • Permission Issues: Depending on system security settings, you might need administrative privileges to view other users’ group memberships.


The groups command can be combined with other commands for more complex tasks:

  • Combining with grep:
    To check if a user is part of a specific group:

    groups username | grep 'admin'
  • Script Usage:
    You could use groups in a script to conditionally perform actions if a user belongs to a specific group:

    if groups $USER | grep -q 'admin'; then
        echo "$USER is an admin."
        echo "$USER is not an admin."
  • id: Displays user and group ids.
  • who: Shows who is logged on.
  • users: Displays the users currently logged into the system.

For further reading and more detailed information, visit the official macOS command line guide.