BASH Programming

How to Use Bash Set Builtin

The Linux system contains many options to be set in it by a user. One of the very well-known and useful groups of commands is “Set builtin”. The Set Built-in has many flags to set any environment variables in Bash with its simple commands. Today, we will discuss and implement some examples to see different Set Built-in commands in Ubuntu 20.04 Linux operating system. Start by logging in from your system first. Open your shell terminal using the “Ctrl+Alt+T” shortcut key on the desktop. To get information regarding the “Set Built-in” command, use the “help” command along with the “set” keyword in your terminal as shown.

$ help set

Example 01: Set –x

Let’s start our first example by using the “set –x” built-in. The “set –x” command builtin is used to expand any expression or query used in the shell followed by its interpretation. This means it will tell you what it is going to do along with the execution. Within the terminal, we have used the echo statement to display the string “Linux”. Right now, we didn’t set any built-in value.

$ echo ‘Linux’

Let’s use the “set –x” in the shell, as shown in the image. After setting it, we have used the same “echo” command to display a string “Linux” in the terminal. The “set –x” has expanded its output by showing that the command will “echo” the string “Linux”. On the next line, it executed the file and displayed “Linux”.

$ set –x
$ echo ‘Linux’

To reverse the effect of “set –x” or make it default, use “set +x” as shown in the image.

$ set +x

After setting it to default, let’s make another bash code in the shell. We have initialized a string variable “v” with the value “Ubuntu”. Then, we tried to display the variable value with the “echo” statement. It simply displayed the output of a variable “v”.

$ #!/bin/bash
$ v=”Ubuntu”
$ echo $v

Let’s set the “set –x” builtin once again.

$ set -x

Run the same above code once again. You can see that the “set –x” built-in is the cause of expanding the commands to one or more lines by expressing and displaying.

$ #!/bin/bash
$ v=” Ubuntu”
$ echo $v

You can also see the expanded commands, their calculation on string type while using operators. So, we have defined two string variables v1 and v2.

$ v1=”Linux”
$ v2=”Ubuntu”

The “set –x” has been used to expand again. The echo statement concatenates both variables. Due to “set –x” builtin, the command first expanded to show what will happen, then strings have been concatenated.

$ set –x
$ echo $v1 + $v2

The mathematical expressions can also be evaluated with the help of an “expr” command. To subtract two integers, you have to use the below syntax. The result shows that the “expr” command will calculate the result of subtraction. The next expanded line shows that the calculated result will be displayed by “echo”. In the end, the result has been displayed.

$ echoexpr 55 -12

Example 02: Set –e

The set –e builtin is used in bash to exit the bash code when encountering any non-zero status. Let’s create and open a bash file first. The “set –e” works in the functions only.

$ touch
$ nano

After adding the bash extension, a method show() has been defined containing two echo statements within. It also contains the “return 1” clause between the echo statements. After the method definition, the “set -e” built-in has been used. The show() method is called after that.

After running the code file, it only executed the first “echo” statement. This is because the “set –x” encountered “return 1” after the first echo statement leads to quitting the execution.

$ bash

Let’s update the code once more. We have exchanged the placement of the second echo statement with the “return 1”. After the method, we used “set –e” and called the method. The “set +e” has been used again, and the function has been called once more.

After the execution, the shell has been displayed with both the echo statement texts. The show() method got executed only once because in its first execution, the “set –e” encountered “return 1” and the programs terminated.

$ bash

Example 03: Set –u

In the built-in group, the “set –u” command is used to declare an error when it encounters any variable with no value set. So, open the file “” to update the code. Add the bash extension and add the set built-in “set –u”. It can work with and without function. Declare a string variable “a” with the value “Linux” as demonstrated. Use the echo clause to print this variable value. Another echo statement has been used to print the value of an unset variable “v1” as per the image below.

When we run the bash code, it displays the value of a first variable, “a” i.e., Linux. While executing the second echo statement, it encounters an unset variable. It displayed the error.

$ sh

Example 04: set –o

The built-in “set –o” works the same as “set –u”. But it can be used with the keyword ”nounset” in the bash code. So, we opened the file and replaced the “set –u” with “set –o” along with the keyword “nounset”. The remaining code has been left unchanged.

After running the code displays the same output as the above “set –u” does after running the code.

$ sh

Example 05: Set –n

The “set –n” built-in is used when you don’t want to execute the commands listed in your bash code. So, we have updated the code once again and replaced the “set –o” with “set –n”. After that, all the variables and statements have been defined. Saved and quit the code.

After running this updated bash code, we have got nothing in the result. This is because the “set –n” built-in doesn’t allow it to happen.

$ sh


This article contains the explanation of Set Builtin in Bash script. In this article, we have discussed most of the set built-in commands, i.e., set –x, set –e, set –u, set –o, set –n. Many other built-in sets can be used as well. We extremely believe that it will help the beginner users of bash as well as the expert ones.

About the author

Omar Farooq

Hello Readers, I am Omar and I have been writing technical articles from last decade. You can check out my writing pieces.