COMMAND(1P) POSIX Programmer's Manual COMMAND(1P)PROLOG
This manual page is part of the POSIX Programmer's Manual. The Linux
implementation of this interface may differ (consult the corresponding
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not be implemented on Linux.
NAMEcommand — execute a simple commandSYNOPSIScommand [−p] command_name [argument...]
command [−p][−v|−V] command_name
The command utility shall cause the shell to treat the arguments as a
simple command, suppressing the shell function lookup that is described
in Section 184.108.40.206, Command Search and Execution, item 1b.
If the command_name is the same as the name of one of the special
built-in utilities, the special properties in the enumerated list at
the beginning of Section 2.14, Special Built-In Utilities shall not
occur. In every other respect, if command_name is not the name of a
function, the effect of command (with no options) shall be the same as
When the −v or −V option is used, the command utility shall provide
information concerning how a command name is interpreted by the shell.
The command utility shall conform to the Base Definitions volume of
POSIX.1‐2008, Section 12.2, Utility Syntax Guidelines.
The following options shall be supported:
−p Perform the command search using a default value for PATH
that is guaranteed to find all of the standard utilities.
−v Write a string to standard output that indicates the pathname
or command that will be used by the shell, in the current
shell execution environment (see Section 2.12, Shell Execu‐
tion Environment), to invoke command_name, but do not invoke
* Utilities, regular built-in utilities, command_names
including a <slash> character, and any implementation-
defined functions that are found using the PATH variable
(as described in Section 220.127.116.11, Command Search and Exe‐
cution), shall be written as absolute pathnames.
* Shell functions, special built-in utilities, regular
built-in utilities not associated with a PATH search, and
shell reserved words shall be written as just their
* An alias shall be written as a command line that repre‐
sents its alias definition.
* Otherwise, no output shall be written and the exit status
shall reflect that the name was not found.
−V Write a string to standard output that indicates how the name
given in the command_name operand will be interpreted by the
shell, in the current shell execution environment (see Sec‐
tion 2.12, Shell Execution Environment), but do not invoke
command_name. Although the format of this string is unspeci‐
fied, it shall indicate in which of the following categories
command_name falls and shall include the information stated:
* Utilities, regular built-in utilities, and any implemen‐
tation-defined functions that are found using the PATH
variable (as described in Section 18.104.22.168, Command Search
and Execution), shall be identified as such and include
the absolute pathname in the string.
* Other shell functions shall be identified as functions.
* Aliases shall be identified as aliases and their defini‐
tions included in the string.
* Special built-in utilities shall be identified as special
* Regular built-in utilities not associated with a PATH
search shall be identified as regular built-in utilities.
(The term ``regular'' need not be used.)
* Shell reserved words shall be identified as reserved
The following operands shall be supported:
argument One of the strings treated as an argument to command_name.
The name of a utility or a special built-in utility.
The following environment variables shall affect the execution of com‐
LANG Provide a default value for the internationalization vari‐
ables that are unset or null. (See the Base Definitions vol‐
ume of POSIX.1‐2008, Section 8.2, Internationalization Vari‐
ables for the precedence of internationalization variables
used to determine the values of locale categories.)
LC_ALL If set to a non-empty string value, override the values of
all the other internationalization variables.
LC_CTYPE Determine the locale for the interpretation of sequences of
bytes of text data as characters (for example, single-byte as
opposed to multi-byte characters in arguments).
Determine the locale that should be used to affect the format
and contents of diagnostic messages written to standard error
and informative messages written to standard output.
NLSPATH Determine the location of message catalogs for the processing
PATH Determine the search path used during the command search
described in Section 22.214.171.124, Command Search and Execution,
except as described under the −p option.
When the −v option is specified, standard output shall be formatted as:
"%s\n", <pathname or command>
When the −V option is specified, standard output shall be formatted as:
The standard error shall be used only for diagnostic messages.
When the −v or −V options are specified, the following exit values
shall be returned:
0 Successful completion.
>0 The command_name could not be found or an error occurred.
Otherwise, the following exit values shall be returned:
126 The utility specified by command_name was found but could not be
127 An error occurred in the command utility or the utility specified
by command_name could not be found.
Otherwise, the exit status of command shall be that of the simple com‐
mand specified by the arguments to command.
CONSEQUENCES OF ERRORS
The following sections are informative.
The order for command search allows functions to override regular
built-ins and path searches. This utility is necessary to allow func‐
tions that have the same name as a utility to call the utility (instead
of a recursive call to the function).
The system default path is available using getconf; however, since get‐
conf may need to have the PATH set up before it can be called itself,
the following can be used:
command −p getconf PATH
There are some advantages to suppressing the special characteristics of
special built-ins on occasion. For example:
command exec > unwritable-file
does not cause a non-interactive script to abort, so that the output
status can be checked by the script.
The command, env, nohup, time, and xargs utilities have been specified
to use exit code 127 if an error occurs so that applications can dis‐
tinguish ``failure to find a utility'' from ``invoked utility exited
with an error indication''. The value 127 was chosen because it is not
commonly used for other meanings; most utilities use small values for
``normal error conditions'' and the values above 128 can be confused
with termination due to receipt of a signal. The value 126 was chosen
in a similar manner to indicate that the utility could be found, but
not invoked. Some scripts produce meaningful error messages differenti‐
ating the 126 and 127 cases. The distinction between exit codes 126 and
127 is based on KornShell practice that uses 127 when all attempts to
exec the utility fail with [ENOENT], and uses 126 when any attempt to
exec the utility fails for any other reason.
Since the −v and −V options of command produce output in relation to
the current shell execution environment, command is generally provided
as a shell regular built-in. If it is called in a subshell or separate
utility execution environment, such as one of the following:
(PATH=foo command −v)
nohup command −v
it does not necessarily produce correct results. For example, when
called with nohup or an exec function, in a separate utility execution
environment, most implementations are not able to identify aliases,
functions, or special built-ins.
Two types of regular built-ins could be encountered on a system and
these are described separately by command. The description of command
search in Section 126.96.36.199, Command Search and Execution allows for a
standard utility to be implemented as a regular built-in as long as it
is found in the appropriate place in a PATH search. So, for example,
command −v true might yield /bin/true or some similar pathname. Other
implementation-defined utilities that are not defined by this volume of
POSIX.1‐2008 might exist only as built-ins and have no pathname associ‐
ated with them. These produce output identified as (regular) built-ins.
Applications encountering these are not able to count on execing them,
using them with nohup, overriding them with a different PATH, and so
1. Make a version of cd that always prints out the new working direc‐
tory exactly once:
command cd "$@" >/dev/null
2. Start off a ``secure shell script'' in which the script avoids
being spoofed by its parent:
# The preceding value should be <space><tab><newline>.
# Set IFS to its default value.
# Unset all possible aliases.
# Note that unalias is escaped to prevent an alias
# being used for unalias.
unset −f command
# Ensure command is not a user function.
PATH="$(command −p getconf PATH):$PATH"
# Put on a reliable PATH prefix.
At this point, given correct permissions on the directories called
by PATH, the script has the ability to ensure that any utility it
calls is the intended one. It is being very cautious because it
assumes that implementation extensions may be present that would
allow user functions to exist when it is invoked; this capability
is not specified by this volume of POSIX.1‐2008, but it is not pro‐
hibited as an extension. For example, the ENV variable precedes the
invocation of the script with a user start-up script. Such a script
could define functions to spoof the application.
Since command is a regular built-in utility it is always found prior to
the PATH search.
There is nothing in the description of command that implies the command
line is parsed any differently from that of any other simple command.
command a | b ; c
is not parsed in any special way that causes '|' or ';' to be treated
other than a pipe operator or <semicolon> or that prevents function
lookup on b or c.
The command utility is somewhat similar to the Eighth Edition shell
builtin command, but since command also goes to the file system to
search for utilities, the name builtin would not be intuitive.
The command utility is most likely to be provided as a regular built-
in. It is not listed as a special built-in for the following reasons:
* The removal of exportable functions made the special precedence of
a special built-in unnecessary.
* A special built-in has special properties (see Section 2.14, Spe‐
cial Built-In Utilities) that were inappropriate for invoking other
utilities. For example, two commands such as:
date > unwritable-file
command date > unwritable-file
would have entirely different results; in a non-interactive script,
the former would continue to execute the next command, the latter
would abort. Introducing this semantic difference along with sup‐
pressing functions was seen to be non-intuitive.
The −p option is present because it is useful to be able to ensure a
safe path search that finds all the standard utilities. This search
might not be identical to the one that occurs through one of the exec
functions (as defined in the System Interfaces volume of POSIX.1‐2008)
when PATH is unset. At the very least, this feature is required to
allow the script to access the correct version of getconf so that the
value of the default path can be accurately retrieved.
The command −v and −V options were added to satisfy requirements from
users that are currently accomplished by three different historical
utilities: type in the System V shell, whence in the KornShell, and
which in the C shell. Since there is no historical agreement on how and
what to accomplish here, the POSIX command utility was enhanced and the
historical utilities were left unmodified. The C shell which merely
conducts a path search. The KornShell whence is more elaborate—in addi‐
tion to the categories required by POSIX, it also reports on tracked
aliases, exported aliases, and undefined functions.
The output format of −V was left mostly unspecified because human users
are its only audience. Applications should not be written to care
about this information; they can use the output of −v to differentiate
between various types of commands, but the additional information that
may be emitted by the more verbose −V is not needed and should not be
arbitrarily constrained in its verbosity or localization for applica‐
tion parsing reasons.
Section 188.8.131.52, Command Search and Execution, Section 2.12, Shell Exe‐
cution Environment, Section 2.14, Special Built-In Utilities, sh, type
The Base Definitions volume of POSIX.1‐2008, Chapter 8, Environment
Variables, Section 12.2, Utility Syntax Guidelines
The System Interfaces volume of POSIX.1‐2008, exec
Portions of this text are reprinted and reproduced in electronic form
from IEEE Std 1003.1, 2013 Edition, Standard for Information Technology
-- Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX), The Open Group Base
Specifications Issue 7, Copyright (C) 2013 by the Institute of Electri‐
cal and Electronics Engineers, Inc and The Open Group. (This is
POSIX.1-2008 with the 2013 Technical Corrigendum 1 applied.) In the
event of any discrepancy between this version and the original IEEE and
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is the referee document. The original Standard can be obtained online
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