Skip to main content

The `type` Command in Linux: Identifying the Nature of Commands

The Linux operating system offers a plethora of commands that users can run to accomplish various tasks. However, not all commands are the same—they can be built-in shell commands, executable programs, aliases, or even shell functions. Knowing the type of a command is essential for understanding how it operates and how you can manipulate or extend its functionality. This is where the type command comes into play.


The basic syntax of the type command is:

type [options] name [name ...]
  • options: Optional flags to modify the behavior of the type command.
  • name represents the name of the command you want to investigate.

Options Table

--type-tOutputs a single word description of name (e.g., 'file', 'builtin', etc.)
--all-aDisplays all occurrences of name found along the PATH
--name-nNo effect; included for compatibility with other version of type
--quiet-qReturns an exit status zero if name is found, non-zero if not found
--helpNoneDisplays the help message and exits
--versionNoneOutputs version information and exits


Let's look at a few examples to see how type can identify different types of commands.

Example 1: Built-in Command

type cd


cd is a shell builtin

Here, type tells us that cd is a built-in shell command.

Example 2: Executable Program

type ls


ls is /usr/bin/ls

In this case, ls is identified as an executable program located at /usr/bin/ls.

Example 3: Alias

First, let's create an alias:

alias ll='ls -lah'

Now, check its type:

type ll


ll is aliased to `ls -lah`

The type command indicates that ll is an alias for ls -lah.

Example 4: Shell Function

Suppose we define a shell function named greet:

greet() {
echo "Hello, $1!"

Check its type:

type greet


greet is a function
greet ()
echo "Hello, $1!"

Here, type provides us not only with the information that greet is a function but also shows its definition.

Example 5: Using Options

You can use the -t option to get a single-word description of the command type:

type -t cd




The type command is an invaluable tool for understanding the nature of the commands you're working with in a Linux environment. Whether you're dealing with built-in commands, executable programs, aliases, or shell functions, type provides you with quick insights that can guide your further actions. Understanding these types can be crucial when debugging scripts, extending shell functionalities, or learning how different commands are implemented.

What Can You Do Next 🙏😊

If you liked the article, consider subscribing to Cloudaffle, my YouTube Channel, where I keep posting in-depth tutorials and all edutainment stuff for software developers.

YouTube @cloudaffle