READ(1P) POSIX Programmer's Manual READ(1P)PROLOG
This manual page is part of the POSIX Programmer's Manual. The Linux
implementation of this interface may differ (consult the corresponding
Linux manual page for details of Linux behavior), or the interface may
not be implemented on Linux.
NAMEread — read a line from standard input
SYNOPSISread [−r] var...
The read utility shall read a single line from standard input.
By default, unless the −r option is specified, <backslash> shall act as
an escape character. An unescaped <backslash> shall preserve the lit‐
eral value of the following character, with the exception of a <new‐
line>. If a <newline> follows the <backslash>, the read utility shall
interpret this as line continuation. The <backslash> and <newline>
shall be removed before splitting the input into fields. All other
unescaped <backslash> characters shall be removed after splitting the
input into fields.
If standard input is a terminal device and the invoking shell is inter‐
active, read shall prompt for a continuation line when it reads an
input line ending with a <backslash> <newline>, unless the −r option is
The terminating <newline> (if any) shall be removed from the input and
the results shall be split into fields as in the shell for the results
of parameter expansion (see Section 2.6.5, Field Splitting); the first
field shall be assigned to the first variable var, the second field to
the second variable var, and so on. If there are fewer fields than
there are var operands, the remaining vars shall be set to empty
strings. If there are fewer vars than fields, the last var shall be set
to a value comprising the following elements:
* The field that corresponds to the last var in the normal assignment
sequence described above
* The delimiter(s) that follow the field corresponding to the last
* The remaining fields and their delimiters, with trailing IFS white
The setting of variables specified by the var operands shall affect the
current shell execution environment; see Section 2.12, Shell Execution
Environment. If it is called in a subshell or separate utility execu‐
tion environment, such as one of the following:
nohup read ...
find . −exec read ... \;
it shall not affect the shell variables in the caller's environment.
The read utility shall conform to the Base Definitions volume of
POSIX.1‐2008, Section 12.2, Utility Syntax Guidelines.
The following option is supported:
−r Do not treat a <backslash> character in any special way. Con‐
sider each <backslash> to be part of the input line.
The following operand shall be supported:
var The name of an existing or nonexisting shell variable.
The standard input shall be a text file.
The following environment variables shall affect the execution of read:
IFS Determine the internal field separators used to delimit
fields; see Section 2.5.3, Shell Variables.
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
NLSPATH Determine the location of message catalogs for the processing
PS2 Provide the prompt string that an interactive shell shall
write to standard error when a line ending with a <backslash>
<newline> is read and the −r option was not specified.
The standard error shall be used for diagnostic messages and prompts
for continued input.
The following exit values shall be returned:
0 Successful completion.
>0 End-of-file was detected or an error occurred.
CONSEQUENCES OF ERRORS
The following sections are informative.
The −r option is included to enable read to subsume the purpose of the
line utility, which is not included in POSIX.1‐2008.
The following command:
while read −r xx yy
printf "%s %s\n$yy$xx"
done < input_file
prints a file with the first field of each line moved to the end of the
The read utility historically has been a shell built-in. It was sepa‐
rated off into its own utility to take advantage of the richer descrip‐
tion of functionality introduced by this volume of POSIX.1‐2008.
Since read affects the current shell execution environment, it is gen‐
erally provided as a shell regular built-in. If it is called in a sub‐
shell or separate utility execution environment, such as one of the
nohup read ...
find . −exec read ... \;
it does not affect the shell variables in the environment of the call‐
Although the standard input is required to be a text file, and there‐
fore will always end with a <newline> (unless it is an empty file), the
processing of continuation lines when the −r option is not used can
result in the input not ending with a <newline>. This occurs if the
last line of the input file ends with a <backslash> <newline>. It is
for this reason that ``if any'' is used in ``The terminating <newline>
(if any) shall be removed from the input'' in the description. It is
not a relaxation of the requirement for standard input to be a text
Chapter 2, Shell Command Language
The Base Definitions volume of POSIX.1‐2008, Chapter 8, Environment
Variables, Section 12.2, Utility Syntax Guidelines
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
The Open Group Standard, the original IEEE and The Open Group Standard
is the referee document. The original Standard can be obtained online
at http://www.unix.org/online.html .
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IEEE/The Open Group 2013 READ(1P)