33.2. Operator Precedence

In a script, operations execute in order of precedence: the higher precedence operations execute before the lower precedence ones. [1]

Table 33-1. Operator Precedence

OperatorMeaningComments
 HIGHEST PRECEDENCE
var++ var--post-increment, post-decrementC-style operators
++var --varpre-increment, pre-decrement 
   
! ~negationlogical / bitwise, inverts sense of following operator
   
**exponentiationarithmetic operation
* / %multiplication, division, moduloarithmetic operation
+ -addition, subtractionarithmetic operation
   
<< >>left, right shiftbitwise
   
-z -nunary comparisonstring is/is-not null
-e -f -t -x, etc.unary comparisonfile-test
< -lt > -gt <= -le >= -gecompound comparisonstring and integer
-nt -ot -efcompound comparisonfile-test
== -eq != -neequality / inequalitytest operators, string and integer
   
&ANDbitwise
^XORexclusive OR, bitwise
|ORbitwise
   
&& -aANDlogical, compound comparison
|| -oORlogical, compound comparison
   
?:trinary operatorC-style
=assignment(do not confuse with equality test)
*= /= %= += -= <<= >>= &=combination assignmenttimes-equal, divide-equal, mod-equal, etc.
   
,commalinks a sequence of operations
 LOWEST PRECEDENCE

In practice, all you really need to remember is the following:

Now, let's utilize our knowledge of operator precedence to analyze a couple of lines from the /etc/init.d/functions file, as found in the Fedora Core Linux distro.

while [ -n "$remaining" -a "$retry" -gt 0 ]; do # This looks rather daunting at first glance. # Separate the conditions: while [ -n "$remaining" -a "$retry" -gt 0 ]; do # --condition 1-- ^^ --condition 2- # If variable "$remaining" is not zero length #+ AND (-a) #+ variable "$retry" is greater-than zero #+ then #+ the [ expresion-within-condition-brackets ] returns success (0) #+ and the while-loop executes an iteration. # ============================================================== # Evaluate "condition 1" and "condition 2" ***before*** #+ ANDing them. Why? Because the AND (-a) has a lower precedence #+ than the -n and -gt operators, #+ and therefore gets evaluated *last*. ################################################################# if [ -f /etc/sysconfig/i18n -a -z "${NOLOCALE:-}" ] ; then # Again, separate the conditions: if [ -f /etc/sysconfig/i18n -a -z "${NOLOCALE:-}" ] ; then # --condition 1--------- ^^ --condition 2----- # If file "/etc/sysconfig/i18n" exists #+ AND (-a) #+ variable $NOLOCALE is zero length #+ then #+ the [ test-expresion-within-condition-brackets ] returns success (0) #+ and the commands following execute. # # As before, the AND (-a) gets evaluated *last* #+ because it has the lowest precedence of the operators within #+ the test brackets. # ============================================================== # Note: # ${NOLOCALE:-} is a parameter expansion that seems redundant. # But, if $NOLOCALE has not been declared, it gets set to *null*, #+ in effect declaring it. # This makes a difference in some contexts.

Tip

To avoid confusion or error in a complex sequence of test operators, break up the sequence into bracketed sections.
if [ "$v1" -gt "$v2" -o "$v1" -lt "$v2" -a -e "$filename" ] # Unclear what's going on here... if [[ "$v1" -gt "$v2" ]] || [[ "$v1" -lt "$v2" ]] && [[ -e "$filename" ]] # Much better -- the condition tests are grouped in logical sections.

Notes

[1]

Precedence, in this context, has approximately the same meaning as priority