[linux] "find: paths must precede expression:" How do I specify a recursive search that also finds files in the current directory?

I am having a hard time getting find to look for matches in the current directory as well as its subdirectories.

When I run find *test.c it only gives me the matches in the current directory. (does not look in subdirectories)

If I try find . -name *test.c I would expect the same results, but instead it gives me only matches that are in a subdirectory. When there are files that should match in the working directory, it gives me: find: paths must precede expression: mytest.c

What does this error mean, and how can I get the matches from both the current directory and its subdirectories?

This question is related to linux bash find

The answer is


What's happening is that the shell is expanding "*test.c" into a list of files. Try escaping the asterisk as:

find . -name \*test.c

Try putting it in quotes:

find . -name '*test.c'

From find manual:

NON-BUGS         

   Operator precedence surprises
   The command find . -name afile -o -name bfile -print will never print
   afile because this is actually equivalent to find . -name afile -o \(
   -name bfile -a -print \).  Remember that the precedence of -a is
   higher than that of -o and when there is no operator specified
   between tests, -a is assumed.

   “paths must precede expression” error message
   $ find . -name *.c -print
   find: paths must precede expression
   Usage: find [-H] [-L] [-P] [-Olevel] [-D ... [path...] [expression]

   This happens because *.c has been expanded by the shell resulting in
   find actually receiving a command line like this:
   find . -name frcode.c locate.c word_io.c -print
   That command is of course not going to work.  Instead of doing things
   this way, you should enclose the pattern in quotes or escape the
   wildcard:
   $ find . -name '*.c' -print
   $ find . -name \*.c -print

I came across this question when I was trying to find multiple filenames that I could not combine into a regular expression as described in @Chris J's answer, here is what worked for me

find . -name one.pdf -o -name two.txt -o -name anotherone.jpg

-o or -or is logical OR. See Finding Files on Gnu.org for more information.

I was running this on CygWin.


In my case i was missing trailing / in path.

find /var/opt/gitlab/backups/ -name *.tar

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