BASH Programming

How to Handle Command Line Arguments in Bash?

In Linux, we use command-line arguments as input for the bash script. Bash can take these command-line arguments sequentially and parse them as an option. These arguments allow you to affect the actions and the script’s output dynamically.

You can configure these arguments differently to influence the input and output. That’s why handling command-line args in bash is essential, but many new users need to learn how to do it. So in this guide, we will explain different ways to handle command-line arguments in bash.

How to Handle Command Line Arguments in Bash?

There are various ways to handle command line args in Bash so let’s take a look at them to get brief information:

The getopt Function

The getopt function is handy as it provides the options and syntax for defining and parsing arguments in bash. It is a built-in function of Linux that you can use while creating a database file or report in a specific format based on the arguments. The getopt function helps parse the short command-line arguments because there are two types of arguments:

  • Short Arguments: These are the single-character arguments followed by a hyphen. For example, -a, -l, -h, etc., are a few examples of single arguments.


  • Long Arguments: These are the multi-character arguments followed by a double-hyphen. There are various examples of long arguments, such as –all, –list, –help, etc.

Let’s take an example where we will handle the command line arguments using the getopt utility. We have created a bash script named “” that contains the following information:


while getopts 'A:B:C:D:' details; do

case "$details" in


echo "Citizen Name is $OPTARG" ;;


echo "Citizen ID is $OPTARG";;


echo "Birth Place is $OPTARG";;


echo "Occupation is $OPTARG";;


exit 1;;



shift "$(($OPTIND -1))"


if [ ! -z $1 ]; then

echo "Marital Status $1"


echo "No Entries"

exit 1



if [ ! -z $2 ]; then

echo "Family Members $2"


Now let’s execute the script with the required arguments in the input:

As you can see in the above image, we run the script with getopt functions only and then add normal arguments to get the complete result.

Using Flags

Flags are nothing but single characters preceded by hyphens(-). When we pass the arguments using the getopt function, we use flags. -a, -b, -c are some examples of flags. For example,  a script requires a citizen’s name, ID, place, age, and occupation. Hence, we used flags j, k, l, m, n, to define citizen’s name, ID, place, age, and occupation simultaneously:


While getopts j:k:l:m:n: flag_info


case "${flag_info}" in
    <li>j) citizenname=${OPTARG};;</li>
    <li>k) citizenid=${OPTARG};;</li>
    <li>l) place=${OPTARG};;</li>
    <li>m) age=${OPTARG};;</li>
    <li>n) occupation=${OPTARG};;</li>


echo "Here are the entered details:"

echo "Citizen Name: $citizenname";

echo "Citizen ID: $citizenid";

echo "Place: $place";

echo "Age: $age";

echo "Occupation: $occupation";

The script will give the following result in the terminal:

./<script>.sh -j Danny -k 476 -l Toronto -m 25 -n Author

Using [email protected] With Loops

The “[email protected]” variable is nothing but the array of all input arguments. We can pass any number of inputs using the “[email protected]” variable. You can use this variable as a loop to iterate through the arguments. The “[email protected]” variable comes in handy then; you don’t know the input size and can’t take the positional arguments. Hence, you can use the “[email protected]”  rather than defining the getopt function again and again. Here is an example of using loops and [email protected] together in a script:




if [ $# -gt 1 ]




echo "Addition of all numbers is: $add"



echo "Subtraction of the numbers is: $subtraction"



echo "Multiplication of the numbers is: $multiply"



echo "Division of the ${num[0]} and ${num[1]} is: $division1"



echo "Division of ${num[1]} and ${num[2]} is: $division2"



echo "Division of ${num[0]} and ${num[2]} is: $division2"



The above script performs different arithmetic calculations based on the command-line arguments. For example, we have entered 50, 35, and 15 as the input:

Using Positional Parameters

You can access the positional parameters as they access $1 first, then $2, and so on. For example, let’s create a script that reads a name as the first argument and then a city as the second. However, if you pass the city first and then the name, then it considers the name as the city and vice versa. Let’s take a deeper dive into the following script to understand this concept:


echo "Here are the entered details"

echo "name $1"

echo "city $2"

You need to add the name and city at the time of executing the script in the terminal:

Wrapping Up

This is everything you need to know about the methods to handle command line arguments in bash. We have explained different approaches you can try with the appropriate examples. There are various commands if you want to add arguments in the script. So make sure you visit Linuxhint to learn more about them.

About the author

Prateek Jangid

A passionate Linux user for personal and professional reasons, always exploring what is new in the world of Linux and sharing with my readers.