Introduction to Expression Evaluation (EXPR) in Unix

EXPR is a command-line utility found in Unix-like operating systems that evaluates mathematical expressions provided as arguments. It is a handy tool for performing quick calculations, especially within shell scripts or as part of command pipelines. Understanding how to use EXPR effectively can streamline various tasks and improve productivity for system administrators and developers alike.

Basic Syntax

The basic syntax for using EXPR is:

expr expression

Where the 'expression' can be a combination of arithmetic operators and values.

Arithmetic Operators

EXPR supports various arithmetic operators, including:

  1. Addition (+)
  2. Subtraction (-)
  3. Multiplication (*)
  4. Division (/)
  5. Modulo (%)


Let's explore some examples to better understand how EXPR works:

1. Addition:

$ expr 5 + 3

2. Subtraction:

$ expr 10 - 7

3. Multiplication:

$ expr 4 \* 6

Note: The asterisk (*) is a special character in shell scripting, so it needs to be escaped or quoted.

4. Division:

$ expr 15 / 3

5. Modulo:

$ expr 17 % 5

Variables and Expressions

EXPR can also evaluate expressions containing variables, allowing for more dynamic calculations. However, it's essential to remember to use proper shell scripting syntax when dealing with variables.

$ num1=10
$ num2=3
$ expr $num1 + $num2


EXPR is a versatile command-line utility for evaluating mathematical expressions efficiently. Whether you need to perform quick calculations or incorporate arithmetic operations into shell scripts, EXPR provides a straightforward solution. By mastering its usage and understanding its capabilities, you can enhance your productivity in Unix-like environments.