$ ls -l | sort -k 5 -n -r
$ ls -l | sort -k5nr

I find out these two command generate the same output.
But I don't understand why I can combine 5 with n?
Why not a syntax error?


$ ls -l | cut -d: -n -f 2    
$ ls -l | cut -d:nf2
cut: the delimiter must be a single character
Try `cut --help' for more information.

Why cut dose not behave like sort?


Because sort is implemented in a way that parses these in the way you expect.

See also here:

  • Sometimes options and their arguments are run together, sometimes separated by whitespace, and sometimes by a character, typically : or =. Thus "Prog -fFilename", "Prog -f Filename", "Prog -f:Filename", "Prog -f=Filename".
  • Some programs allow single-character options to be combined; others do not. The switch "-fA" may mean the same as "-f -A", or it may be incorrect, or it may even be a valid but different parameter.

This looks like a combination of both (works without whitespace, and combination of single-character options).

They are simply different programs whose argument parsing is implemented differently.

In coreutils 8.13, compare the following::

  • src/sort.c line 4315, invoking the special integer parsing function parse_field_count, that returns with the first invalid character (i.e. once the number value is finished and the next option starts): That's why sort can handle your arguments.
  • src/cut.c, line 803 ff., simply using the regular getopt behavior of interpreting everything until the next white space as parameter to the current option.
  • does sort follow the general rule? cut doesn't work that way. – kev Dec 24 '11 at 8:16
  • @kev Added additional explanation to my answer. – Daniel Beck Dec 24 '11 at 19:38

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