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How to Grep for Multiple Strings, Patterns, or Words?


Grep, short for Global Regular Expression Print, is a powerful command-line utility in Unix/Linux systems that permits you to search for particular patterns within files. When it comes to searching for multiple strings, patterns, or words simultaneously, understanding the various options and techniques becomes crucial. In this blog, we’ll explore how to leverage grep effectively to achieve this

How Do I Grep for Multiple Ways?

When faced with the need to search for multiple strings using grep, a myriad of options and techniques unfold, offering a versatile approach to meet specific requirements. Grep, short for Global Regular Expression Print, serves as a command-line utility in Unix/Linux systems designed for efficient pattern matching within files. Let’s explore various ways in the next segment to employ grep for multiple search scenarios.

Examples of Employing Grep for Multiple Strings, Patterns and Words

How to Grep Multiple Patterns in a File?

Mastering the art of searching for multiple patterns within a file unveils the unparalleled flexibility of Grep. The tool’s adaptability is vividly demonstrated when users leverage the -e option, enclosing patterns in quotes to pinpoint specific content. Consider the following command:

grep -e 'pattern1' -e 'pattern2' filename
How to Grep Multiple Patterns in a File?

This command functions as a precision instrument, adeptly displaying lines containing either ‘pattern1’ or ‘pattern2’ in the specified file. The significance of this approach becomes evident in scenarios demanding intricate searches for a multitude of patterns. By streamlining the process of extracting pertinent information from files, Grep emerges as an invaluable ally for users navigating through complex datasets.

Search for Multiple Exact Matches in a File

In situations requiring utmost precision, the utilization of the -E option in Grep becomes paramount. This option introduces a powerful mechanism, allowing users to list patterns with a pipe (|) as the separator. Consider the following command:

grep -E 'pattern1|pattern2' filename

This command operates as a meticulous filter, efficiently displaying lines that contain both ‘pattern1’ and ‘pattern2’ in the specified file. The significance of this capability becomes pronounced in scenarios where all specified criteria must be met for the content to be considered relevant.

The power of the -E option lies in its ability to orchestrate complex searches, providing users with a versatile tool for stringent pattern matching. Whether you are examining log files for specific error patterns or parsing through structured data with interconnected elements, mastering the use of -E enhances your ability to retrieve precisely what you seek. Grep’s commitment to precision shines through, making it an indispensable asset in scenarios where exact matches are the key to unlocking meaningful insights.

Ignore Case when Utilizing Grep for Multiple Strings

The case-insensitive search capability of grep, facilitated by the -i option, adds another layer of flexibility to pattern matching. Regardless of letter case, the command:

grep -i 'pattern1\|pattern2' filename
grep -i 'pattern1\|pattern2' filename

Ensures the matching of lines containing either ‘pattern1’ or ‘pattern2.’ This proves beneficial when users need to conduct searches without being concerned about the specific casing of the patterns.

Show the Count of Multiple Matches in a File

For a more quantitative approach to pattern matching, the -c option proves handy. When employed in the following command:

grep -c -e 'pattern1' -e 'pattern2' filename
grep -c -e 'pattern1' -e 'pattern2' filename

Users obtain a count of lines containing either ‘pattern1’ or ‘pattern2’ in the specified file. This feature streamlines the process of assessing the scale of matches, aiding in quick evaluations of the relevance of specific patterns within a file.

Grep for Multiple Patterns in a Specific File Type

Navigating through diverse file types is made seamless with Grep’s specialized feature—the –include option. Consider the following scenario:

grep -e 'pattern1' -e 'pattern2' --include='*.txt' directory

This command serves as a precision tool, selectively searching for the specified patterns exclusively within files of the .txt format in the designated directory. The beauty of the –include option lies in its ability to filter searches based on file types, elevating the precision of Grep searches. This ensures that users retrieve pertinent information tailored to specific file formats, streamlining the process of extracting meaningful insights from targeted sources.

Search Recursively for Multiple Patterns in a File

Grep’s prowess truly shines with its recursive search functionality, a feature activated by the -r option. This capability transforms pattern matching into a comprehensive exploration, extending its reach to encompass entire directory structures. For instance:

grep -r -e 'pattern1' -e 'pattern2' directory
Search Recursively for Multiple Patterns in a File

In this command, the magic unfolds as lines containing either ‘pattern1’ or ‘pattern2’ are efficiently displayed not only in the specified directory but also in its subdirectories. The recursive search feature proves to be a linchpin in scenarios where patterns are scattered across various levels of directory hierarchy, providing an invaluable means to unearth information that might be buried deep within the file structure.

As data structures evolve and become more intricate, the ability to search recursively becomes indispensable. Whether you are navigating through a labyrinth of code repositories or exploring datasets with layered organization, Grep’s recursive search ensures that no stone is left unturned, offering a powerful tool to unravel patterns and insights across the entire directory spectrum.

Also Read: How to Copy Files and Directories in Linux?


In the dynamic landscape of text processing, harnessing the potential of grep for multiple strings, patterns, or words is a formidable skill set. The versatile command-line tool, equipped with options like -e for distinct pattern searches, empowers users to efficiently sift through extensive datasets. Precision is heightened with the -E option, employing logical OR (|) for uncovering files containing all specified patterns, presenting a nuanced approach for extracting valuable information. The flexibility of case-insensitive searches, facilitated by the -i option, broadens the scope of exploration by disregarding letter case, providing a comprehensive view of patterns. For those seeking quantitative insights, the -c option delivers a quick line count of specified patterns, streamlining the evaluation process. Tailoring searches to specific file types becomes seamless with the –include option, allowing targeted exploration within designated formats.

Embodying the essence of comprehensive exploration, grep demonstrates its recursive prowess through the -r option, extending searches not only to a specified directory but also to its subdirectories. This feature proves invaluable when navigating intricate file structures. In conclusion, the world of grep unfolds as a vast landscape of possibilities. Mastering these options equips users with the finesse to navigate through data efficiently, unlocking the full potential of grep in handling diverse search scenarios with precision and ease. As this journey unfolds, users delve deeper into the intricate capabilities of grep, continuously refining their skills in the art of text processing.

Arpit Saini

He is the Director of Cloud Operations at Serverwala and also follows a passion to break complex tech topics into practical and easy-to-understand articles. He loves to write about Web Hosting, Software, Virtualization, Cloud Computing, and much more.

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