read — Reads a line of input into shell variables


read [-d {delimiter}] [-e] [-n {number}] [-p {prompt}] [-s] [-t {timeout}] [-u {file}] {variable...}


-d delimiter

The delimiter is a single character which is used to terminate the input line the default if this option is not given is newline.


If the input is not coming from a file (-u isn't used) the input will be read with a line editor. This line editor is the same as the main shell but with no history.

-n number

The command exits after reading the specified number of characters.

-p prompt

The prompt will be output before starting to accept input. The prompt is only displayed if -u is not being used.


If the -u is not being used characters entered are usually displayed, this switch inhibits this display. This can be used for password entry.

-t timeout

this stops reading input after the timeout and exits with a non zero exit code. The option has no effect if the -u option is being used.

-u fd

Instead of reading input from the console read from the given file descriptor.


The names of the variables to place the read text into. If no names are supplied the input is put into the REPLY variable.


One line is read from the console, or from the file descriptor supplied as an argument to the -u option, and the first word is assigned to the first variable name, the second word to the second name, and so on, with leftover words and their intervening separators assigned to the last name. If there are fewer words read from the input stream than names, the remaining names are assigned empty values.

The characters in IFS are used to split the line into words unless the delimiter switch is used.

The return code is zero, unless end-of-file is encountered, read times out, or an invalid file is supplied as the argument to -u.

Example 49. Using the read command

This example shows the use to the read command in several ways. Firstly reading simple text without a prompt and then with a long prompt.

some text
>echo $REPLY
some text
>read -p "a long prompt $"
a long prompt $some text with a long prompt
>echo $REPLY
some text with a long prompt

This shows reading values into a specified variable and how the REPLY variable is unaffected.

>REPLY="no reply"
>read -p $ VARIABLE
$some text with a prompt in VARIABLE
some text with a prompt in VARIABLE
>echo $REPLY
no reply

This shows the use of the silent switch to suppress echoing of output.

>read -s VARIABLE

some text in VARIABLE with silent enabled

This shows the use of the delimiter and timeout options to read a preset number of characters and perform a read within a set amount of time.

>read -n 5 VARIABLE
12345>echo $VARIABLE
>read -d 9 VARIABLE
this text continues until a 9>echo $VARIABLE
this text continues until a
>echo $?
>read -t 3 VARIABLE
>echo $?
this text continues until a