I have a script that I am making and I have an issue with it: I would like to pause execution and wait for user input. I thought that I had it with the read -p -n 1 $foo command but the system is having issues with this command. Here is my current script:


# Ititialization

mainmenu () {
  echo "Press 1 to update your system"
  echo "Press 2 to install samba"
  echo "Press 3 to install vsFTPd"
  echo "Press 4 to install the current version of Webmin"
  echo "Press 5 to configure samba for Active Directory"
  echo "Press x to exit the script"
  read -n 1 -p "Input Selection:" mainmenuinput
  if [ "$mainmenuinput" = "1" ]; then
        elif [ "$mainmenuinput" = "2" ]; then
        elif [ "$mainmenuinput" = "3" ]; then
        elif [ "$mainmenuinput" = "4" ]; then
        elif [ "$mainmenuinput" = "5" ]; then
        elif [ "$mainmenuinput" = "x" ];then
        elif [ "$mainmenuinput" = "X" ];then
            echo "You have entered an invallid selection!"
            echo "Please try again!"
            echo ""
            echo "Press any key to continue..."
            read -n 1

# This builds the main menu and routs the user to the function selected.


# This executes the main menu function.
# Let the fun begin!!!! WOOT WOOT!!!!

You may notice at the mainmenu function the read -n 1 -p "text goes here" entry. That is where I am having the issue according to ubuntu. Can somebody tell me what is going wrong? thanks!

  • 4
    The shebang is wrong. You're using bash features, so the shebang must be set to #!/usr/bin/env bash or #!/bin/bash.
    – geirha
    Apr 13, 2014 at 12:01
  • Please also consider this Unix.SE question of mine, where read and sh (instead of bash) were also causing trouble.
    – Cadoiz
    Nov 5, 2021 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


Should be:

read  -n 1 -p "Input Selection:" mainmenuinput

Need to put the n flag after, as that is is telling read to execute after N characters are entered, do not wait for an entire line. Check help read and this for details.

  • 2
    I have figured it out! Here is the correct code: read -n 1 -p "Input Selection:" "mainmenuinput" It now does not wait for the press of the enter/return key :-) Apr 13, 2014 at 17:05
  • 2
    "illegal option -n"
    – ses
    May 14, 2014 at 20:06
  • 3
    If you just want to pause execution and wait to continue in a for loop: for $whatever; do $whatever; read -n 1 -p Continue?; done
    – niken
    Feb 2, 2017 at 17:00
  • @ses See my comment here
    – Cadoiz
    Nov 5, 2021 at 13:29
  • If you want to hide the typed character you can add the -s option.
    – schlicki
    Jun 14 at 11:21

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