Is it possible to suspend a bash that was invoked by another bash? For example, if I use su to become a different user but want to switch back to my own user for a moment. For another example, in an SSH session, I can use the ~ shortcut (~, ^Z) to suspend the remote shell and return to my local shell (but that's obviously an SSH feature, not the shell).

bash intercepts ^Z to do its own process control, so it must be a separate command (if it's even supported). But trying to find it only results in information about the normal process control.

3 Answers 3


Bash has a suspend builtin:

suspend: suspend [-f]
    Suspend shell execution.

    Suspend the execution of this shell until it receives a SIGCONT signal.
    Unless forced, login shells cannot be suspended.

      -f    force the suspend, even if the shell is a login shell

    Exit Status:
    Returns success unless job control is not enabled or an error occurs.
  • Ahha! That's what I was looking for.
    – Brian
    Dec 8, 2011 at 15:41

Try with:

kill -STOP $$

where $$ is the PID of the current shell.

You can bind it to Alt + z for example by adding to ~/.inputrc:

"\ez": "kill -STOP $$\n"
  • Excellent, thank you! Never knew about .inputrc
    – Brian
    Dec 6, 2011 at 17:51
  • It controls the way bash reads/edit the user input, see man readline, it can be very useful, it's worth to mention the commands: history-search-backward and history-search-backward.
    – cYrus
    Dec 6, 2011 at 18:08

Not exactly what you were asking for, but I normally use screen when I'm doing things like that. However, screen is not installed by default on all systems.

  • I actually work in screen all the time. I run screen on my local machine and have SSH sessions into a bunch of others. So I don't typically run screen on the remote systems because screen-within-screen is clumsy. And I'm too lazy to open another session :-). I'm used to hitting ^Z in vim to suspend it when I need to run some commands (I know vim has ! but it's not the same as a shell).
    – Brian
    Dec 8, 2011 at 15:45

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