How to find patterns across multiple lines using grep?

How to find patterns across multiple lines using grep?

I want to find files that have "abc" AND "efg" in that order, and those two strings are on different lines in that file. Eg: a file with content:

blah blah.. blah blah.. blah abc blah blah blah.. blah blah.. blah blah.. blah efg blah blah blah blah.. blah blah.. 

Should be matched.

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Grep is not sufficient for this operation..
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pcregrep which is found in most of the modern Linux systems can be used as.
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pcregrep -M  'abc.*(\n|.)*efg' test.txt 

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I'm not sure if it is possible with grep, but sed makes it very easy:.
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sed -e '/abc/,/efg/!d' [file-with-content] 


here's a solution inspired by (@MichaelMior - thanks for the link).. if 'abc' and 'efg' can be on the same line:.
grep -zl 'abc.*efg' <your list of files> 
if 'abc' and 'efg' must be on different lines:.
grep -Pzl '(?s)abc.*\n.*efg' <your list of files> 
-z Treat the input as a set of lines, each terminated by a zero byte instead of a newline.


grep threats the input as a one big line.. -l print name of each input file from which output would normally have been printed.. (?s) activate PCRE_DOTALL, which means that '.' finds any character or newline..


I wanted to comment yet not allowed because my reputation isnt big enough but . sed should suffice as poster LJ stated above, . instead of !d you can simply use p to print: .
sed -n '/abc/,/efg/p' file 


You can do that very easily if you can use Perl.

perl -ne 'if (/abc/) { $abc = 1; next }; print "Found in $ARGV\n" if ($abc && /efg/); }' yourfilename.txt 
You can do that with a single regular expression too, but that involves taking the entire contents of the file into a single string, which might end up taking up too much memory with large files.

For completeness, here is that method: .
perl -e '@lines = <>; $content = join("", @lines); print "Found in $ARGV\n" if ($content =~ /abc.*efg/s);' yourfilename.txt 


Sadly, you can't.

From the grep docs:.
grep searches the named input FILEs (or standard input if no files are named, or if a single hyphen-minus (-) is given as file name) for lines containing a match to the given PATTERN..


I don't know how I would do that with grep, but I would do something like this with awk:
awk '/abc/{ln1=NR} /efg/{ln2=NR} END{if(ln1 && ln2 && ln1 < ln2){print "found"}else{print "not found"}}' foo 
You need to be careful how you do this, though.

Do you want the regex to match the substring or the entire word? add \w tags as appropriate.

Also, while this strictly conforms to how you stated the example, it doesn't quite work when abc appears a second time after efg.

If you want to handle that, add an if as appropriate in the /abc/ case etc..


awk one-liner:.
awk '/abc/,/efg/' [file-with-content] 


While the sed option is the simplest and easiest, LJ's one-liner is sadly not the most portable.

Those stuck with a version of the C Shell will need to escape their bangs:.
sed -e '/abc/,/efg/\!d' [file] 
This unfortunately does not work in bash et al..


I released a grep alternative a few days ago that does support this directly, either via multiline matching or using conditions - hopefully it is useful for some people searching here.

This is what the commands for the example would look like:. Multiline: sift -lm 'abc.*efg' testfile
Conditions: sift -l 'abc' testfile --followed-by 'efg'. You could also specify that 'efg' has to follow 'abc' within a certain number of lines:
sift -l 'abc' testfile --followed-within 5:'efg'. You can find more information on


I relied heavily on pcregrep, but with newer grep you do not need to install pcregrep for many of its features.

Just use grep -P.. In the example of the OP's question, I think the following options work nicely, with the second best matching how I understand the question:.
grep -Pzo "abc(.|\n)*efg" /tmp/tes* grep -Pzl "abc(.|\n)*efg" /tmp/tes* 
I copied the text as /tmp/test1 and deleted the 'g' and saved as /tmp/test2.

Here is the output showing that the first shows the matched string and the second shows only the filename (typical -o is to show match and typical -l is to show only filename).

Note that the 'z' is necessary for multiline and the '(.|\n)' means to match either 'anything other than newline' or 'newline' - i.e.

user@host:~$ grep -Pzo "abc(.|\n)*efg" /tmp/tes* /tmp/test1:abc blah blah blah.. 

blah blah..

blah blah..

blah efg user@host:~$ grep -Pzl "abc(.|\n)*efg" /tmp/tes* /tmp/test1
To determine if your version is new enough, run man grep and see if something similar to this appears near the top:.
   -P, --perl-regexp           Interpret  PATTERN  as a Perl regular expression (PCRE, see           below). 

This is highly experimental and grep -P may warn of unimplemented features.

That is from GNU grep 2.10..


This can be done easily by first using tr to replace the newlines with some other character:.
tr '\n' '\a' | grep 'abc.*def' | tr '\a' '\n' 
Here, I am using the alarm character, \a (ASCII 7) in place of a newline.

This is almost never found in your text, and grep can match it with a ., or match it specifically with \a..


#!/bin/bash shopt -s nullglob for file in * do  r=$(awk '/abc/{f=1}/efg/{g=1;exit}END{print g&&f ?1:0}' file)  if [ "$r" -eq 1 ];then    echo "Found pattern in $file"  else    echo "not found"  fi done 


you can use grep incase you are not keen in the sequence of the pattern..
grep -l "pattern1" filepattern*.* | xargs grep "pattern2" 
grep -l "vector" *.cpp | xargs grep "map" 
grep -l will find all the files which matches the first pattern, and xargs will grep for the second pattern.

Hope this helps..


If you are willing to use contexts, this could be achieved by typing.
grep -A 500 abc test.txt | grep -B 500 efg 
This will display everything between "abc" and "efg", as long as they are within 500 lines of each other..


With silver searcher:.
ag 'abc.*(\n|.)*efg' 
similar to ring bearer's answer, but with ag instead.

Speed advantages of silver searcher could possibly shine here..


As an alternative to Balu Mohan's answer, it is possible to enforce the order of the patterns using only grep, head and tail:.
for f in FILEGLOB; do tail $f -n +$(grep -n "pattern1" $f | head -n1 | cut -d : -f 1) 2>/dev/null | grep "pattern2" &>/dev/null && echo $f; done 
This one isn't very pretty, though.

Formatted more readably:.
for f in FILEGLOB; do     tail $f -n +$(grep -n "pattern1" $f | head -n1 | cut -d : -f 1) 2>/dev/null \     | grep -q "pattern2" \     && echo $f done 
This will print the names of all files where "pattern2" appears after "pattern1", or where both appear on the same line:.
$ echo "abc def" > a.txt $ echo "def abc" > b.txt $ echo "abcdef" > c.txt; echo "defabc" > d.txt $ for f in *.txt; do tail $f -n +$(grep -n "abc" $f | head -n1 | cut -d : -f 1) 2>/dev/null | grep -q "def" && echo $f; done a.txt c.txt d.txt 


  • tail -n +i - print all lines after the ith, inclusive
  • grep -n - prepend matching lines with their line numbers
  • head -n1 - print only the first row
  • cut -d : -f 1 - print the first cut column using : as the delimiter
  • 2>/dev/null - silence tail error output that occurs if the $() expression returns empty
  • grep -q - silence grep and return immediately if a match is found, since we are only interested in the exit code


If you need both words are close each other, for example no more than 3 lines, you can do this:.
find . 

-exec grep -Hn -C 3 "abc" {} \; | grep -C 3 "efg"
Same example but filtering only *.txt files:.
find . 

-name *.txt -exec grep -Hn -C 3 "abc" {} \; | grep -C 3 "efg"
And also you can replace grep command with egrep command if you want also find with regular expressions..


This should work too?!.
perl -lpne 'print $ARGV if /abc.*?efg/s' file_list 
$ARGV contains the name of the current file when reading from file_list /s modifier searches across newline.


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