How to use return command in Linux.

How To Use Return Command. 

The “return” command is an important feature in the Bash scripting language used on Linux operating systems. This command allows you to return a value from a function or Bash script and use it further in other parts of the script. In this article, we will explore how to use the “return” command in Linux, providing you with concrete examples to better understand this concept.


Command Syntax

The basic syntax of the “return” command is as follows:

return [value]
  • value represents the value you want to return from your function or script. It can be an integer or a string.


Example 1: Using “return” in a Function

Suppose you have a function that performs a simple mathematical operation and you want to return the result. Here’s an example:

calculate() {
  result=$((2 + 2))
  return $result

echo "The result of the calculation is: $result"

In this example, the “calculate” function adds 2 to 2 and stores the result in the “result” variable. Then, the “return $result” command returns the calculated value. The result is stored in the “$?” variable after calling the function. Finally, the value is displayed using the “echo” command.


Example 2: Using “return” in a Script

You can use the “return” command in a more complex script to return a value based on certain conditions. Here’s an example where a script checks if a file exists:

check_file() {
  if [ -e "$file_name" ]; then
    return 0  # Return 0 for success
    return 1  # Return 1 for failure

check_file "$file_name"

if [ $result -eq 0 ]; then
  echo "The file exists."
  echo "The file does not exist."

In this example, the “check_file” function takes the name of a file as an argument. It checks whether the file exists and returns 0 for success or 1 for failure. The result is stored in the “$result” variable, and the script displays an appropriate message based on the result.

The “return” command is useful in scenarios where you want to return values from functions or scripts for further use in your Linux programs. With the help of these examples, you should have a better understanding of how this command works and how to use it in your own scripts and functions.


Example 3: Returning Strings

In the previous examples, we returned integer values, but the “return” command is not limited to just numbers. You can also return strings. Here’s an example of how to return a string from a function:

get_greeting() {
  local name="$1"
  return "Hello, $name!"

greeting=$(get_greeting "$name")
echo "$greeting"

In this example, the “get_greeting” function takes a name as an argument and returns a greeting string. The result is captured in the “greeting” variable, and then it’s displayed using the “echo” command.


Example 4: Returning Multiple Values

While the “return” command can only return a single value, you can return multiple values by using other techniques, such as arrays. Here’s an example of returning multiple values as an array:

get_coordinates() {
  local x=10
  local y=20
  local coordinates=("$x" "$y")
  echo "${coordinates[@]}"

echo "X coordinate: $x"
echo "Y coordinate: $y"

In this example, the “get_coordinates” function stores the X and Y coordinates in an array, which is then echoed as a space-separated string. The coordinates are captured into the “coordinates” array and can be accessed individually.


Important Considerations

  1. Function and Script Structure: It’s important to structure your functions and scripts properly. The “return” command should be placed within a function, and you should call that function to retrieve the returned value.

  2. Exit Status: The value returned by the “return” command is often referred to as the “exit status.” By convention, a non-zero exit status indicates an error or failure, while a zero exit status indicates success. This is useful for handling errors in scripts.

  3. Capturing the Return Value: To capture the value returned by the “return” command, you can use the special variable “$?”. For other data types, like strings or arrays, you can use other techniques like capturing the output with command substitution or using global variables.

  4. Exit Status Range: Keep in mind that the exit status is limited to values between 0 and 255 in Bash, so choose values that fit within this range when returning integers.



In conclusion, the “return” command in Linux is a powerful tool for passing values from functions and scripts to the calling context. It allows you to create more modular and flexible scripts by encapsulating functionality in functions and returning results. Whether you’re returning integers, strings, or even complex data structures, understanding how to use “return” effectively can improve your scripting capabilities in the Linux environment.