How do I prompt a user for confirmation in bash script?


I want to put a quick "are you sure?" prompt for confirmation at the top of a potentially dangerous bash script, what's the easiest/best way to do this?

12/11/2009 2:52:46 AM

Accepted Answer

read -p "Are you sure? " -n 1 -r
echo    # (optional) move to a new line
if [[ $REPLY =~ ^[Yy]$ ]]
    # do dangerous stuff

I incorporated levislevis85's suggestion (thanks!) and added the -n option to read to accept one character without the need to press Enter. You can use one or both of these.

Also, the negated form might look like this:

read -p "Are you sure? " -n 1 -r
echo    # (optional) move to a new line
if [[ ! $REPLY =~ ^[Yy]$ ]]
    [[ "$0" = "$BASH_SOURCE" ]] && exit 1 || return 1 # handle exits from shell or function but don't exit interactive shell

However, as pointed out by Erich, under some circumstances such as a syntax error caused by the script being run in the wrong shell, the negated form could allow the script to continue to the "dangerous stuff". The failure mode should favor the safest outcome so only the first, non-negated if should be used.


The read command outputs the prompt (-p "prompt") then accepts one character (-n 1) and accepts backslashes literally (-r) (otherwise read would see the backslash as an escape and wait for a second character). The default variable for read to store the result in is $REPLY if you don't supply a name like this: read -p "my prompt" -n 1 -r my_var

The if statement uses a regular expression to check if the character in $REPLY matches (=~) an upper or lower case "Y". The regular expression used here says "a string starting (^) and consisting solely of one of a list of characters in a bracket expression ([Yy]) and ending ($)". The anchors (^ and $) prevent matching longer strings. In this case they help reinforce the one-character limit set in the read command.

The negated form uses the logical "not" operator (!) to match (=~) any character that is not "Y" or "y". An alternative way to express this is less readable and doesn't as clearly express the intent in my opinion in this instance. However, this is what it would look like: if [[ $REPLY =~ ^[^Yy]$ ]]

2/22/2019 7:50:35 PM

use case/esac.

read -p "Continue (y/n)?" choice
case "$choice" in 
  y|Y ) echo "yes";;
  n|N ) echo "no";;
  * ) echo "invalid";;


  1. neater
  2. can use "OR" condition easier
  3. can use character range, eg [yY][eE][sS] to accept word "yes", where any of its characters may be in lowercase or in uppercase.

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