So what I have to do is find all regular files within and below the directory. For each of these regular files, I have to egrep for pattern($ARG) and find out if the output of the file matches the pattern ($ARG), if it does it will add one to the counter.

What I have so far is the file command:

$count = 0
file *

However, I am having trouble getting egrep &ARG > /dev/null/ ; echo $? to run through each file that appears from (file *).

I understand that file * | egrep directory > /dev/null ; echo $? will output 0 because it find the pattern 'directory' in the file, but am having trouble getting it to loop through each regular file so I can add one to the counter every time the pattern is matched.

  • 1
    If you just want to count the files which contain the pattern, the following will show it: find -type f -print0|xargs -0 egrep -l ...|wc -l, where ... is the parameter list you want to pass to egrep. This finds all standard files in the current directory and below, and this list is built into a file list for egrep -l, which shows the name of any file containing the match pattern, and the number of files is counted by wc -l.
    – AFH
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 1:47
  • Your question is very confusing, would you mind rewording it? What do you intend to achieve with file *? file returns the type of file(s) specified in its arguments. What do you intend with this? as @AFH states above, the best tool for obtaining all files within a directory is find. Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 8:21

1 Answer 1


I think this will do what you want. Essentially, it creates a list of all the files in the directory and below; then scans them, printing the file name of any hits; then it counts how many file names are returned.

count=$(egrep -l "$ARG" $(find . -type f) | wc -l)

It is possible that the find will return too many files (you will get the error, "Argument list too long"). In which case, this slower, but surer mechanism will work:

count=$(find . -type f -exec egrep -l "$ARG" {} \; | wc -l)

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