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'; How to check if a string contains a substring in Bash - LavOzs.Com

I have a string in Bash:

string="My string"

How can I test if it contains another string?

if [ $string ?? 'foo' ]; then
  echo "It's there!"

Where ?? is my unknown operator. Do I use echo and grep?

if echo "$string" | grep 'foo'; then
  echo "It's there!"

That looks a bit clumsy.

You can use Marcus's answer (* wildcards) outside a case statement, too, if you use double brackets:

string='My long string'
if [[ $string == *"My long"* ]]; then
  echo "It's there!"

Note that spaces in the needle string need to be placed between double quotes, and the * wildcards should be outside.

If you prefer the regex approach:

string='My string';

if [[ $string =~ "My" ]]
   echo "It's there!"

I am not sure about using an if statement, but you can get a similar effect with a case statement:

case "$string" in 
    # Do stuff

As these Stack Overflow answers tell mostly about Bash, I've posted a case independent Bash function at the very bottom of this post...

Anyway, there is my

Compatible answer

As there are already a lot of answers using Bash-specific features, there is a way working under poorer-featured shells, like BusyBox:

[ -z "${string##*$reqsubstr*}" ]

In practice, this could give:

string='echo "My string"'
for reqsubstr in 'o "M' 'alt' 'str';do
  if [ -z "${string##*$reqsubstr*}" ] ;then
      echo "String '$string' contain substring: '$reqsubstr'."
      echo "String '$string' don't contain substring: '$reqsubstr'."

This was tested under Bash, Dash, KornShell (ksh) and ash (BusyBox), and the result is always:

String 'echo "My string"' contain substring: 'o "M'.
String 'echo "My string"' don't contain substring: 'alt'.
String 'echo "My string"' contain substring: 'str'.

Into one function

As asked by @EeroAaltonen here is a version of the same demo, tested under the same shells:

myfunc() {
    if [ -z "${string##*$reqsubstr*}" ] ;then
        echo "String '$string' contain substring: '$reqsubstr'.";
        echo "String '$string' don't contain substring: '$reqsubstr'."


$ myfunc 'o "M' 'echo "My String"'
String 'echo "My String"' contain substring 'o "M'.

$ myfunc 'alt' 'echo "My String"'
String 'echo "My String"' don't contain substring 'alt'.

Notice: you have to escape or double enclose quotes and/or double quotes:

$ myfunc 'o "M' echo "My String"
String 'echo My String' don't contain substring: 'o "M'.

$ myfunc 'o "M' echo \"My String\"
String 'echo "My String"' contain substring: 'o "M'.

Simple function

This was tested under BusyBox, Dash, and, of course Bash:

stringContain() { [ -z "${2##*$1*}" ]; }

That's all folks!

Then now:

$ if stringContain 'o "M3' 'echo "My String"';then echo yes;else echo no;fi
$ if stringContain 'o "M' 'echo "My String"';then echo yes;else echo no;fi

... Or if the submitted string could be empty, as pointed out by @Sjlver, the function would become:

stringContain() { [ -z "${2##*$1*}" ] && [ -z "$1" -o -n "$2" ]; }

or as suggested by Adrian Günter's comment, avoiding -o switches:

stringContain() { [ -z "${2##*$1*}" ] && { [ -z "$1" ] || [ -n "$2" ];};}

Final (simple) function:

And inverting the tests to make them potentially quicker:

stringContain() { [ -z "$1" ] || { [ -z "${2##*$1*}" ] && [ -n "$2" ];};}

With empty strings:

$ if stringContain '' ''; then echo yes; else echo no; fi
$ if stringContain 'o "M' ''; then echo yes; else echo no; fi

Case independent (Bash only!)

For testing strings without care of case, simply convert each string to lower case:

stringContain() {
    local _lc=${2,,}
    [ -z "$1" ] || { [ -z "${_lc##*${1,,}*}" ] && [ -n "$2" ] ;} ;}


stringContain 'o "M3' 'echo "my string"' && echo yes || echo no
stringContain 'o "My' 'echo "my string"' && echo yes || echo no
if stringContain '' ''; then echo yes; else echo no; fi
if stringContain 'o "M' ''; then echo yes; else echo no; fi

You should remember that shell scripting is less of a language and more of a collection of commands. Instinctively you think that this "language" requires you to follow an if with a [ or a [[. Both of those are just commands that return an exit status indicating success or failure (just like every other command). For that reason I'd use grep, and not the [ command.

Just do:

if grep -q foo <<<"$string"; then
    echo "It's there"

Now that you are thinking of if as testing the exit status of the command that follows it (complete with semi-colon), why not reconsider the source of the string you are testing?

## Instead of this
filetype="$(file -b "$1")"
if grep -q "tar archive" <<<"$filetype"; then

## Simply do this
if file -b "$1" | grep -q "tar archive"; then

The -q option makes grep not output anything, as we only want the return code. <<< makes the shell expand the next word and use it as the input to the command, a one-line version of the << here document (I'm not sure whether this is standard or a Bashism).

The accepted answer is best, but since there's more than one way to do it, here's another solution:

if [ "$string" != "${string/foo/}" ]; then
    echo "It's there!"

${var/search/replace} is $var with the first instance of search replaced by replace, if it is found (it doesn't change $var). If you try to replace foo by nothing, and the string has changed, then obviously foo was found.

So there are lots of useful solutions to the question - but which is fastest / uses the fewest resources?

Repeated tests using this frame:

/usr/bin/time bash -c 'a=two;b=onetwothree; x=100000; while [ $x -gt 0 ]; do TEST ; x=$(($x-1)); done'

Replacing TEST each time:

[[ $b =~ $a ]]           2.92 user 0.06 system 0:02.99 elapsed 99% CPU

[ "${b/$a//}" = "$b" ]   3.16 user 0.07 system 0:03.25 elapsed 99% CPU

[[ $b == *$a* ]]         1.85 user 0.04 system 0:01.90 elapsed 99% CPU

case $b in *$a):;;esac   1.80 user 0.02 system 0:01.83 elapsed 99% CPU

doContain $a $b          4.27 user 0.11 system 0:04.41 elapsed 99%CPU

(doContain was in F. Houri's answer)

And for giggles:

echo $b|grep -q $a       12.68 user 30.86 system 3:42.40 elapsed 19% CPU !ouch!

So the simple substitution option predictably wins whether in an extended test or a case. The case is portable.

Piping out to 100000 greps is predictably painful! The old rule about using external utilities without need holds true.

This also works:

if printf -- '%s' "$haystack" | egrep -q -- "$needle"
  printf "Found needle in haystack"

And the negative test is:

if ! printf -- '%s' "$haystack" | egrep -q -- "$needle"
  echo "Did not find needle in haystack"

I suppose this style is a bit more classic -- less dependent upon features of Bash shell.

The -- argument is pure POSIX paranoia, used to protected against input strings similar to options, such as --abc or -a.

Note: In a tight loop this code will be much slower than using internal Bash shell features, as one (or two) separate processes will be created and connected via pipes.

Bash 4+ examples. Note: not using quotes will cause issues when words contain spaces, etc. Always quote in Bash, IMO.

Here are some examples Bash 4+:

Example 1, check for 'yes' in string (case insensitive):

    if [[ "${str,,}" == *"yes"* ]] ;then

Example 2, check for 'yes' in string (case insensitive):

    if [[ "$(echo "$str" | tr '[:upper:]' '[:lower:]')" == *"yes"* ]] ;then

Example 3, check for 'yes' in string (case sensitive):

     if [[ "${str}" == *"yes"* ]] ;then

Example 4, check for 'yes' in string (case sensitive):

     if [[ "${str}" =~ "yes" ]] ;then

Example 5, exact match (case sensitive):

     if [[ "${str}" == "yes" ]] ;then

Example 6, exact match (case insensitive):

     if [[ "${str,,}" == "yes" ]] ;then

Example 7, exact match:

     if [ "$a" = "$b" ] ;then

Example 8, wildcard match .ext (case insensitive):

     if echo "$a" | egrep -iq "\.(mp[3-4]|txt|css|jpg|png)" ; then



How about this:

text="   <tag>bmnmn</tag>  "
if [[ "$text" =~ "<tag>" ]]; then
   echo "matched"
   echo "not matched"

As Paul mentioned in his performance comparison:

if echo "abcdefg" | grep -q "bcdef"; then
    echo "String contains is true."
    echo "String contains is not true."

This is POSIX compliant like the 'case "$string" in' the answer provided by Marcus, but it is slightly easier to read than the case statement answer. Also note that this will be much much slower than using a case statement. As Paul pointed out, don't use it in a loop.

This Stack Overflow answer was the only one to trap space and dash characters:

# For null cmd arguments checking   
to_check=' -t'
space_n_dash_chars=' -'
[[ $to_check == *"$space_n_dash_chars"* ]] && echo found

One is:

[ $(expr $mystring : ".*${search}.*") -ne 0 ] && echo 'yes' ||  echo 'no'
[[ $string == *foo* ]] && echo "It's there" || echo "Couldn't find"

I like sed.

nonsub="$(echo "$string" | sed "s/$substr//")"
hassub=0 ; [ "$string" != "$nonsub" ] && hassub=1

Edit, Logic:

  • Use sed to remove instance of substring from string

  • If new string differs from old string, substring exists

Jadu Saikia

grep -q is useful for this purpose.

The same using awk:

string="unix-bash 2389"
printf '%s' "$string" | awk -vc="$character" '{ if (gsub(c, "")) { print "Found" } else { print "Not Found" } }'


Not Found

string="unix-bash 2389"
printf '%s' "$string" | awk -vc="$character" '{ if (gsub(c, "")) { print "Found" } else { print "Not Found" } }'



Original source:

I found to need this functionality quite frequently, so I'm using a home-made shell function in my .bashrc like this which allows me to reuse it as often as I need to, with an easy to remember name:

function stringinstring()
    case "$2" in
          return 0
    return 1

To test if $string1 (say, abc) is contained in $string2 (say, 123abcABC) I just need to run stringinstring "$string1" "$string2" and check for the return value, for example

stringinstring "$str1" "$str2"  &&  echo YES  ||  echo NO

My .bash_profile file and how I used grep:

If the PATH environment variable includes my two bin directories, don't append them,

# .bash_profile
# Get the aliases and functions
if [ -f ~/.bashrc ]; then
    . ~/.bashrc


if ! echo "$PATH" | grep -q "home"; then
    export PATH=$PATH:${U}

Extension of the question answered here How do you tell if a string contains another string in POSIX sh?:

This solution works with special characters:

# contains(string, substring)
# Returns 0 if the specified string contains the specified substring,
# otherwise returns 1.
contains() {

    if echo "$string" | $(type -p ggrep grep | head -1) -F -- "$substring" >/dev/null; then
        return 0    # $substring is in $string
        return 1    # $substring is not in $string

contains "abcd" "e" || echo "abcd does not contain e"
contains "abcd" "ab" && echo "abcd contains ab"
contains "abcd" "bc" && echo "abcd contains bc"
contains "abcd" "cd" && echo "abcd contains cd"
contains "abcd" "abcd" && echo "abcd contains abcd"
contains "" "" && echo "empty string contains empty string"
contains "a" "" && echo "a contains empty string"
contains "" "a" || echo "empty string does not contain a"
contains "abcd efgh" "cd ef" && echo "abcd efgh contains cd ef"
contains "abcd efgh" " " && echo "abcd efgh contains a space"

contains "abcd [efg] hij" "[efg]" && echo "abcd [efg] hij contains [efg]"
contains "abcd [efg] hij" "[effg]" || echo "abcd [efg] hij does not contain [effg]"

contains "abcd *efg* hij" "*efg*" && echo "abcd *efg* hij contains *efg*"
contains "abcd *efg* hij" "d *efg* h" && echo "abcd *efg* hij contains d *efg* h"
contains "abcd *efg* hij" "*effg*" || echo "abcd *efg* hij does not contain *effg*"

Exact word match:

string='My long string'

if grep -E -q "\b${exactSearch}\b" <<<${string} >/dev/null 2>&1
    echo "It's there"

Try oobash.

It is an OO-style string library for Bash 4. It has support for German umlauts. It is written in Bash.

Many functions are available: -base64Decode, -base64Encode, -capitalize, -center, -charAt, -concat, -contains, -count, -endsWith, -equals, -equalsIgnoreCase, -reverse, -hashCode, -indexOf, -isAlnum, -isAlpha, -isAscii, -isDigit, -isEmpty, -isHexDigit, -isLowerCase, -isSpace, -isPrintable, -isUpperCase, -isVisible, -lastIndexOf, -length, -matches, -replaceAll, -replaceFirst, -startsWith, -substring, -swapCase, -toLowerCase, -toString, -toUpperCase, -trim, and -zfill.

Look at the contains example:

[Desktop]$ String a testXccc
[Desktop]$ a.contains tX
[Desktop]$ a.contains XtX

oobash is available at

I use this function (one dependency not included but obvious). It passes the tests shown below. If the function returns a value > 0 then the string was found. You could just as easily return 1 or 0 instead.

function str_instr {
   # Return position of ```str``` within ```string```.
   # >>> str_instr "str" "string"
   # str: String to search for.
   # string: String to search.
   typeset str string x
   # Behavior here is not the same in bash vs ksh unless we escape special characters.
   str="$(str_escape_special_characters "${1}")"
   if [[ "${x}" != "${string}" ]]; then
      echo "${#x} + 1" | bc -l
      echo 0

function test_str_instr {
   str_instr "(" "'foo@host (dev,web)'" | assert_eq 11
   str_instr ")" "'foo@host (dev,web)'" | assert_eq 19
   str_instr "[" "'foo@host [dev,web]'" | assert_eq 11
   str_instr "]" "'foo@host [dev,web]'" | assert_eq 19
   str_instr "a" "abc" | assert_eq 1
   str_instr "z" "abc" | assert_eq 0
   str_instr "Eggs" "Green Eggs And Ham" | assert_eq 7
   str_instr "a" "" | assert_eq 0
   str_instr "" "" | assert_eq 0
   str_instr " " "Green Eggs" | assert_eq 6
   str_instr " " " Green "  | assert_eq 1

Since the POSIX/BusyBox question is closed without providing the right answer (IMHO), I'll post an answer here.

The shortest possible answer is:

[ ${_string_##*$_substring_*} ] || echo Substring found!


[ "${_string_##*$_substring_*}" ] || echo 'Substring found!'

Note that the double hash is obligatory with some shells (ash). Above will evaluate [ stringvalue ] when the substring is not found. It returns no error. When the substring is found the result is empty and it evaluates [ ]. This will throw error code 1 since the string is completely substituted (due to *).

The shortest more common syntax:

[ -z "${_string_##*$_substring_*}" ] && echo 'Substring found!'


[ -n "${_string_##*$_substring_*}" ] || echo 'Substring found!'

Another one:

[ "${_string_##$_substring_}" != "$_string_" ] && echo 'Substring found!'


[ "${_string_##$_substring_}" = "$_string_" ] || echo 'Substring found!'

Note the single equal sign!


function check {
    echo $msg | egrep [abc] 1> /dev/null

    if [ $? -ne 1 ];
        echo "found" 
        echo "not found" 


This will find any occurance of a or b or c

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