If I run the following command line on Ubuntu:

var="$(date +"%x %r %Z")"
echo var

I can get the desired output. But If I just run

date +%x %r %Z

I will be given errors:

date: extra operand ‘%r’

Try 'date --help' for more information.

So what is the date command corresponding to var="$(date +"%x %r %Z")"? Thanks.

  • 1
    The date command is date +"%x %r %Z" with the quotes on it so that it knows that all the % are part of it.
    – Terrance
    Sep 21, 2018 at 5:14

2 Answers 2


You did not copy exactly the same command. You wrote date +"%x %r %Z" inside parentheses. This just work well outside. Otherwise, date has three arguments (+%x, %r and %Z), rather than one (+%x %r %Z).

From man bash :

When using the $(command) form, all characters between the parentheses make up the command; none are treated specially.
Command substitutions may be nested.

Parentheses are matched before evaluating the content, so the command is not split as $(date +%x, %r, %Z) .

Note :
You forgot the $ of echo $var.

  • Why does bash not interpret the assignment to be "$(date +" followed by %x %r %Z and then by ")"? We know var="aaa"bbb"ccc" ls is ok. Sep 21, 2018 at 5:57
  • @user5280911 I updated my answer.
    – user285259
    Sep 21, 2018 at 6:16

So what is the date command corresponding to var="$(date +"%x %r %Z")"?

Well as already stated in another answer you missed to quote the options right, it should be at least:

date +"%x %r %Z"

This is needed because you are using white-spaces to keep the different information apart, the man page for date suggests using -, or _, with this you could omit the quoting all together in normal terminal, or you escape the white-spaces.


  • using '-' as divider

    date +%x-%r%Z

    gives the following output:

    21.09.2018-11:30:15 CEST
  • using '_' as divider

    date +%x_%r%Z

    gives the following output:

    21.09.2018_11:30:15 CEST
  • using escaped white-spaces as divider

    date +%x\ %r%Z

    gives the following output:

    21.09.2018 11:30:15 CEST
  • using no dividers at all

    date +%x%r%Z

    gives the following output:

    21.09.201811:30:15 CEST

Remainder for a special use case. When you try to incorporate date into a crontab command, you need to escape the % sign too. So as undivided information the command would look like this (Before mentioned rules apply for escaping still):

date +\%x\%r\%Z

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