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How To grep lines starting with parenthesis in Linux

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In the world of Linux, grep is a powerful command-line tool that allows you to search and filter text using a common regular expression syntax. In this article, we will delve into how to use grep to find lines starting with a parenthesis in a text file.

Quick Answer

To grep lines starting with parenthesis in Linux, you can use the following grep command:

grep '^(' file.txt

This command will search for lines in the file.txt that begin with a parenthesis.

Understanding the grep Command

grep stands for Global Regular Expression Print. It’s a tool used to search text or output based on a pattern. grep is highly flexible and can be used with regular expressions to refine search results.

Using grep to Find Lines Starting with Parenthesis

To find lines that start with a parenthesis, we use the grep command followed by the regular expression '^('.

Here is the basic syntax:

grep '^(' file.txt

In this command, ^ is a special character denoting the start of a line, and ( is the character we are searching for. So '^(' will match any line that begins with a (. The file.txt is the file where we want to search.

Alternative Methods

Using sed

sed is another Linux command-line utility used for parsing and transforming text. Here’s how to use sed to achieve the same result:

sed -n '/^(/p' file.txt

In this command, -n suppresses automatic printing, /^(/ is the pattern we are searching for, and p tells sed to print the lines that match the pattern.

Using perl

perl is a high-level, general-purpose programming language that is commonly used for text manipulation:

perl -ne '/^\(/ && print' file.txt

In this command, -n tells perl to assume a looping structure around the script, e allows execution of the code given in the command line, /^\(/ is the pattern we are searching for, and print will print the lines that match the pattern.

Using bash

You can also use a bash one-liner to achieve the same result:

while IFS= read -r line; do [[ $line =~ ^\( ]] && echo "$line"; done < file.txt

In this command, IFS= sets the internal field separator to null, read -r line reads each line without interpreting any backslashes, [[ $line =~ ^\( ]] checks if the line starts with a (, and echo "$line" prints the line if the condition is met.

Using python

Python is a popular high-level programming language that can also be used to achieve this:

with open('file.txt') as f:
 for line in f:
 if line.startswith('('):
 print line.rstrip()

In this Python script, open('file.txt') opens the file, for line in f: reads each line, if line.startswith('('): checks if the line starts with a (, and print line.rstrip() prints the line if the condition is met, while also removing any trailing whitespace.


In this article, we’ve explored how to use grep and several other command-line tools and programming languages to find lines starting with a parenthesis in Linux. These methods are powerful and flexible, allowing you to manipulate and filter text in a variety of ways.

Remember, the key to mastering these tools is practice. So, don’t hesitate to experiment with different commands and options to see what works best for you. Happy grepping!

What is a regular expression?

A regular expression, often referred to as regex, is a sequence of characters that defines a search pattern. It is used to match and manipulate strings based on certain patterns. Regular expressions are widely used in text processing, search algorithms, and data validation.

What does the `^` character mean in a regular expression?

In a regular expression, the ^ character is a special metacharacter that denotes the start of a line. When used at the beginning of a regex pattern, it matches the start of a line or string.

How does the `grep` command work?

The grep command searches for patterns in text files or output and prints any lines that match the specified pattern. It uses regular expressions to define the pattern, allowing for powerful and flexible searching. By default, grep outputs the lines containing the matching pattern, but it can be customized to display only the matching pattern or exclude matching lines.

Can `grep` be used with regular expressions other than the start of a line?

Yes, grep can be used with a wide range of regular expressions. It supports various metacharacters and constructs that allow you to match patterns at the start, end, or anywhere within a line. You can also use quantifiers to specify the number of occurrences, character classes to match specific characters, and more.

Are there any alternatives to `grep` for searching and filtering text?

Yes, there are several alternatives to grep for text searching and filtering. Some common ones include sed, awk, and perl. These tools provide similar functionality but may have different syntax and options. Additionally, programming languages like Python and Ruby also have libraries and methods for text searching and manipulation.

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