The ls /bin command shows many files. I need to get a detailed list. But the ls -l /bin command shows only 1 file.

Tell me, please, what is wrong?

  • $ ls -l $(echo $PATH | tr ':' '\n') will show you "all" your executables, and also where they or the /bin dirs are linked to, if that is the case.
    – Hannu
    Apr 11, 2022 at 21:41

1 Answer 1


Nothing is wrong.

/bin is a symlink that points to /usr/bin.

When you use the ls /bin command, the symlink is followed, and you're shown the contents of /usr/bin (where the symlink points).

However, with the ls -l /bin command, the symlink is not followed, and only the symlink itself is shown.

The reason may be found under the --dereference-command-line-symlink-to-dir option in the ls texinfo documentation (info ls or info coreutils 'ls invocation'):

     Do not dereference symbolic links, with one exception: if a command
     line argument specifies a symbolic link that refers to a directory,
     show information for that directory rather than for the link
     itself.  This is the default behavior when no other
     dereferencing-related option has been specified (‘--classify’
     (‘-F’), ‘--directory’ (‘-d’), (‘-l’), ‘--dereference’ (‘-L’), or
     ‘--dereference-command-line’ (‘-H’)).

In this context, -l is an "other dereferencing-related option" and turns the behavior off.

If you use ls -lH /bin, you tell the command to specifically follow symlinks, and now you (properly) see the contents of /usr/bin.

/bin being a symlink to /usr/bin follows the UsrMerge package, which was introduced in Debian 10 in 2019, and thus adopted by the following versions of Ubuntu.

  • 2
    Another way to force dereferencing is to use ls -l /bin/
    – Stobor
    Apr 13, 2022 at 2:52

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