when I write in terminal

echo $PATH

my output is


but when I write just :


this output I do not understand right, output is:

bash: :/home/bo/bin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/local/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin: No such file or directory

and my question is, why did it write "No such file or directory?" every directory from PATH variable exists.

5 Answers 5


$PATH is a variable, which I am sure you're aware of. When that variable is resolved, it would be the same as typing in :/home/bo/bin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/local/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin: and expecting something to happen. The reason echo $PATH works is because you're explicitly piping it out to the display rather than telling the terminal to "do" $PATH.


In case you still don't get it from the other answers, it's the same as this:

$ echo the quick brown fox
the quick brown fox
$ the quick brown fox
bash: the: command not found

$ echo and/or the black and white cats
and/or the black and white cats
$ and/or the black and white cats
bash: and/or: No such file or directory

The first word of every command line has to be a commandecho is such a command.  the, and/or, and :/home/bo/bin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin… are not.  And, apparently, when you type a command line that begins with a word that isn't a command, bash says No such file or directory if the word contains one or more / characters, and command not found if it doesn't.


By typing


you are actually doing nothing else than expanding its content at command line:


and this is not a valid command, legitimately leading to the message you are getting.

What did you expect that typing only $PATH will do?

  • I guess the expectation that $PATH would essentially print the variable to the screen without trying to execute it, however, this is not the case.
    – iDrwish
    Feb 15, 2019 at 15:49

On Linux the terminal is waiting for a command, $PATH is not a command , is a variable.

When you write echo $PATH you're asking the contents of the variable and with the command echo showing it on screen.


The variable $PATH contains multiple directories separated by colons. The shell is expecting an executable file or other command (e.g., a shell built-in command, like cd) as input. Commands such as ls and cat are just executables located in one of the $PATH directories. Multiple directories chained together by colons generally do not form a proper UNIX file path. Notice: if you enter just one of the directories without the colon, then you get a different output.

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