What Is Expr in Shell Scripting?


Angela Bailey

Shell scripting is a powerful tool that allows you to automate tasks in a command-line environment. One of the most useful features of shell scripting is the ability to perform calculations and manipulate data using expressions. In this article, we will explore the expr command in shell scripting and how it can be used to evaluate expressions.

The expr Command

expr is a command-line utility that evaluates expressions and performs arithmetic operations in shell scripts. It takes one or more arguments and returns the result of the evaluated expression. The basic syntax of expr is as follows:

expr expression

The expression can be a combination of numbers, variables, operators, and functions. Let’s take a look at some examples to understand how expr works.

Simple Arithmetic Operations

You can use expr to perform basic arithmetic operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. For example:

  • $ expr 10 + 5: This will output 15.
  • $ expr 10 - 5: This will output 5.
  • $ expr 10 \* 5: This will output 50.
  • $ expr 10 / 5: This will output 2.

Note that the multiplication operator (*) and division operator (/) need to be escaped with a backslash (\) because they have special meanings in shell scripting.

Variable Substitution

You can also use variables in your expressions by substituting their values. For example:

expr $x + $y

This will output 15, as the values of x and y are substituted in the expression.

String Manipulation

In addition to arithmetic operations, expr can also be used for string manipulation. You can use it to find the length of a string, extract substrings, and perform pattern matching. For example:

string="Hello World"
expr length "$string"

This will output 11, which is the length of the string “Hello World”.


The expr command is a versatile tool in shell scripting that allows you to evaluate expressions and perform calculations. It can be used for simple arithmetic operations, variable substitution, and string manipulation. By incorporating expr into your shell scripts, you can automate complex tasks and save time and effort.

So go ahead and experiment with expr in your shell scripts. It’s a powerful tool that will enhance your scripting capabilities!

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