Brandon Rozek

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Software Developer, Researcher, and Linux Enthusiast.

Conditional Assignment in Bash

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Many programming languages include an quick way to perform a conditional assignment. That is, assigning a variable with a value based on some condition. Normally this is done through a ternary operator. For example, here is how to write it in Javascript

age = 16;
ageType = (age > 18) "Adult": "Child";

The variable ageType is dependent upon the value of age. If it is above 18 then ageType = "Adult" otherwise ageType = "Child".

A more verbose way of accomplishing the same thing is the following:

if (age > 18) {
    ageType = "Adult"
} else {
    ageType = "Child"

How do we do conditional assignment in Bash? One way is to make use of subshells and echoing out the values.

AGE_TYPE=$([ $AGE -gt 18 ] && echo "Adult" || echo "Child")

A common programming feature called short-circuiting makes it so that if the first condition ([ $AGE -gt 18 ]) is false, then it will skip the right side of the AND (&&) expression. This is because False && True is always False. However, False || True is equal to True, so the language needs to evaluate the right part of an OR (||) expression.

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