pwd Command in Linux with Examples

In a Linux environment, understanding your location within the directory structure is fundamental. A central command that aids this task is the ‘pwd’ command in Linux, an abbreviation for ‘print working directory’. This command, simple yet crucial, is routinely employed by Linux users to discern their current position in the directory hierarchy. This comprehensive guide delves into the ‘pwd’ command, illuminating its syntax, a wide range of use cases, along with practical and advanced examples to further refine your understanding.

Understanding the PWD Command in Linux: What Is It?

The pwd command in Linux is a built-in command used to print the full pathname of the current working directory to the standard output. This pathname is the exact location of the directory you’re presently working in, starting from the root directory. When you open a terminal, you are in your home directory by default, and as you navigate to other directories, the pwd command helps you track your current location within the filesystem hierarchy. This feature is particularly beneficial when you’re moving deep into directories and want to avoid errors like moving or deleting files from the wrong directory.

Syntax of the Linux PWD Command: An Explanation

The pwd command in Linux is simple and straightforward. It can be used without any options or with two optional flags:

pwd [-LP]

A brief overview of the two options:

  • -L (logical): This option tells pwd to display the logical current directory. If the current directory is a symbolic link, pwd -L will show the path with the symbolic link. This option is useful when you want to view the path as it is, without resolving symbolic links.
  • -P (physical): When used with pwd, this option displays the physical current directory by resolving symbolic links. The pwd -P command will show the path with the actual directories, not the symbolic links. This option comes in handy when you want to know the real path, not just the symbolic link.

The default behavior of pwd, when no options are supplied, is to act as if the -L option was provided, but this can vary depending on the shell or environment in which you are working.

PWD Command Practical Examples in Linux

Understanding the pwd command and its options is better achieved through practical illustrations. Here are some common and handy examples:

Displaying the Current Directory

The most straightforward use of the pwd command is to print the current directory. When you type pwd in your terminal and press enter, the terminal will display the full path to your current directory.


This command will return an output similar to /home/username/, which signifies your current location in the directory structure.

Using the PWD Command with Symbolic Links

Symbolic links are essentially shortcuts to other files and directories. When navigating through directories, it can be useful to know whether your current directory is a symbolic link and where it points.

If you create a symbolic link to a directory and navigate to it, you can use pwd -L and pwd -P to see the difference between the logical and physical directories:

ln -s /var/www/html link
cd link
pwd -L
pwd -P

In this scenario:

  • The ln -s /var/www/html link command creates a symbolic link named link that points to the /var/www/html directory.
  • The cd link command navigates into the newly created symbolic link.
  • The pwd command, which defaults to the -L option in most environments, displays the path including the symbolic link (/path/to/link).
  • The pwd -L command does the same as pwd, showing the path with the symbolic link (/path/to/link).
  • The pwd -P command, on the other hand, displays the actual directory (/var/www/html) that the symbolic link points to.

Understanding the output of pwd -L and pwd -P, you can know both where you logically are (the symbolic link’s path) and where the symbolic link leads physically (the actual directory’s path).

Exploring the Parent Directory with pwd and cd

The cd command, coupled with pwd, can be an effective tool for exploring directories. For instance, you can use the cd .. command to navigate to the parent directory and then pwd to print the new directory.

cd ..

This series of commands would first navigate to the parent directory and then print the path of that directory. This is useful when exploring an unfamiliar directory structure or when you need to move up in the hierarchy quickly.

Creating a Directory and Checking its Location

When you create a directory using the mkdir command, you can verify its location using pwd. This can be especially useful in scripts or when creating directories dynamically.

mkdir new_directory
cd new_directory

These commands would create a new directory named new_directory, navigate into it, and then print the path of that directory. This way, you can verify that you’ve created and navigated to the correct location.

Using pwd in Shell Scripts

The pwd command is not only for interactive use. It can also be used within shell scripts to determine and work with the current directory. For instance, suppose you have a script that should copy a file from its own location to another directory. In that case, you can use pwd to determine the script’s location:


cp "${current_directory}/file.txt" /destination/directory

In this script:

  • The current_directory=$(pwd) line assigns the current directory’s path to the variable current_directory.
  • The cp "${current_directory}/file.txt" /destination/directory line copies file.txt from the script’s directory to /destination/directory.

This example showcases how pwd can help manipulate file paths in scripting, offering a powerful tool for various automated tasks.

pwd Command Advanced Examples and Scenarios in Linux

The pwd command’s simplicity doesn’t limit its potential for use in complex scenarios. Below are a few examples of pwd usage in more advanced situations:

Using pwd with find

The find command in Linux is a powerful utility for locating files and directories based on different criteria. You can use pwd in conjunction with find to search for files within the current directory and its subdirectories:

find "$(pwd)" -name "file.txt"

This command will search the current directory (returned by $(pwd)) for a file named file.txt. Using pwd like this is useful when you want to ensure the search is relative to your current location, particularly within scripts or aliases.

Printing the Current Directory into a File

Sometimes, you might want to store the path of the current directory in a file for future use. You can use pwd and the output redirection operator > for this task:

pwd > path.txt

This command will print the current directory’s path into a file named path.txt. This could be used in logging operations or to keep track of where certain operations were performed in your scripts.

Navigating to a Directory Stored in a File

You can combine pwd with the cd command and command substitution ($()) to navigate to a directory stored in a file:

cd "$(cat path.txt)"

In this example, cat path.txt reads the path stored in path.txt, and cd "$(cat path.txt)" navigates to that directory. The pwd command then verifies that you’ve navigated to the correct location by printing the current directory’s path.

Using pwd in a Makefile

In a Makefile, you can use pwd to handle directories dynamically. For instance, suppose you’re compiling a C program and want to place the output in the same directory as the Makefile. You could do something like this:

DEPS = program.h
OBJ = program.o
OUT = $(shell pwd)/program.out

%.o: %.c $(DEPS)
\t$(CC) -c -o $@ $< $(CFLAGS)

$(OUT): $(OBJ)
\t$(CC) -o $@ $^ $(CFLAGS)

In this Makefile:

  • The line OUT = $(shell pwd)/program.out defines the output file’s path as the current directory (where the Makefile is located) plus /program.out.
  • The $(OUT): $(OBJ) line specifies that $(OUT) (the output file) depends on $(OBJ) (the object files). If any object files change, $(OUT) is rebuilt.
  • The line $(CC) -o $@ $^ $(CFLAGS) then compiles the object files into the output program located at $(OUT).

By utilizing pwd in this manner, you can ensure your Makefile operations are performed relative to the Makefile’s location, enhancing portability and flexibility.

Exporting pwd Output to an Environment Variable

In certain scenarios, you might need to use the current directory path multiple times in a script or during a terminal session. To avoid calling pwd each time, you can store the output in an environment variable:


The export CURRENT_DIRECTORY=$(pwd) command stores the current directory’s path in an environment variable named CURRENT_DIRECTORY. You can then use $CURRENT_DIRECTORY anywhere in your script or terminal session to refer to this path, ensuring consistency and improving readability.


The pwd command in Linux, while simple, is a fundamental tool for any user navigating the Linux directory structure. Understanding its use cases, from basic to advanced, can enhance your command-line proficiency, streamline your tasks, and help avoid potential mistakes. The flexibility of pwd, particularly when combined with other commands or used in scripts, demonstrates the power and elegance of the Linux command-line interface.