if - macOS


The if command in macOS is a conditional shell command used in shell scripting to perform conditional execution of commands. It evaluates expressions and, based on their truthfulness, executes corresponding command sequences. This command is pivotal in decision-making processes within scripts, allowing the script to react differently to varying conditions or inputs.


The basic syntax for the if command in macOS shell scripting is as follows:

if test-commands; then
[elif more-test-commands; then
[else alternate-consequents;]


  • test-commands are the commands that the if statement executes to determine the flow of execution.
  • consequent-commands are executed if the test-commands return a zero exit status (success).
  • more-test-commands and more-consequents denote additional checks and actions.
  • alternate-consequents are executed if none of the test-commands return zero.


Since if is a shell keyword, not a standalone utility, it does not have options in the traditional sense like other commands (ls, grep, etc.). It strictly depends on the test conditions provided and the shell’s built-in test mechanisms (test or [ command).


  1. Basic Example:

    if [ $FILE_TYPE = "txt" ]; then
      echo "File is a text file."
      echo "File is not a text file."

    Checks if the file type is a text file and prints an appropriate message.

  2. Multiple Conditions:

    if [ $USER = "admin" ]; then
      echo "Welcome, admin."
    elif [ $USER = "guest" ]; then
      echo "Limited access mode."
      echo "Access denied."

    Uses elif to extend the conditions, allowing for multiple scenarios.

Common Issues

  • Syntax Errors: Common mistakes include missing then, else, or fi. Ensure each statement is properly closed.
  • Test Condition Errors: Misformatted test expressions, such as misplaced brackets or incorrect comparison operators, can lead to unexpected results. Always validate the test conditions.
  • Permission Issues: Scripts containing if may fail if executed without necessary permissions. Ensure execution permissions are set correctly.


The if command is frequently combined with loops, functions, and other commands to build sophisticated shell scripts. Here’s an example of using if with for loop and grep:

for FILE in *.txt; do
  if grep -q 'error' $FILE; then
    echo "Error found in $FILE."

This script checks every .txt file in the current directory for the presence of the word ‘error’.

  • test or [ – Evaluates conditional expressions.
  • case – Manage multi-way branchings in scripts.

For more detailed guide, refer to the Bash Reference Manual.

This manual serves as a foundation for understanding and utilizing the if command effectively in macOS shell scripting to automate and enhance daily tasks and complex workflows.